Blizzard warning in effect, but not for areas that residents say got phone alert
Dec 17, 2012 (The News Tribune (Tacoma - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Residents from Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place, Spanaway and other lowland areas told The News Tribune they received emergency alerts Sunday afternoon about a blizzard that the National Weather Service said was not expected in their areas.
Seattle-area residents told The News Tribune they received the same alert.
"Blizzard Warning this area til 6:00 PM PST Mon. Prepare. Avoid Travel. Check media. -NWS," read cellphone screenshots sent by several readers to The News Tribune.
According to the National Weather Service, the message sent was part of the federal government's Wireless Emergency Alerts system, which started sending notifications this year. The messages are meant for imminent threats, such as extreme weather.
Sunday's message seemingly referred to a blizzard warning issued by the Weather Service for the Cascades from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 p.m. Monday.
Affected areas included Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, White Pass and Paradise, the warning said.
Whiteout conditions were expected from 4 a.m. through this afternoon. Travel through affected areas should be avoided if possible and will be extremely dangerous, according to the warning.
It wasn't clear how or why the alert was sent so broadly. The notifications are broadcast from cell towers in specific geographic regions, Weather Service meteorologist Liana Ramirez said.
They're "not elevation-based," she added.
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