Residents who don’t want to get caught off guard if a tornado forms in the area have a new way to keep track of hazardous weather on their smartphones and other mobile devices.
The American Red Cross recently released its “Tornado App,” which is designed to put real-time hazardous weather information in the palms of users’ hands.
The new app is free and is available in both English and Spanish for iPhone, iPad and Android users, according to a Red Cross media release.
Be warned though: the app does include a “high-pitched siren” that goes off when a tornado moves into a user’s area. It also provides an “all clear” alert when danger passes. The alert sounds even if the app happens to be closed when a tornado is reported.
Information conveyed on the app comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to the release.
“Tornadoes often happen in the overnight hours when people are sleeping,” said Linda Carbon, CEO of Florida’s West Coast Region, in explaining the reason for the loud siren alert. “The audible alerts in this app can save lives - even if users can’t monitor the weather because they are away from radio, TV or in places where weather band radios may not work.”
Why Do Tampa Bay Residents Need the App?
Janet McGuire, spokeswoman for the Red Cross’ West Coast Region, said there are some pretty compelling reasons why Tampa Bay area residents should download and use the app.
“Florida has the dubious distinction of having a higher frequency of tornadoes per 10,000 square miles than any other state, including Oklahoma,” she said. The coastline from Fort Myers up through Tampa Bay is especially vulnerable, she added.
While there isn’t technically a “tornado season,” McGuire said we are entering the period of time when Florida is most likely to see tornado formation.
Springtime is when Florida tends to see its most powerful tornado strikes, she said, and summer is the time when the most frequent reports of sightings come in.
So, just how frequent are tornadoes in Florida?
McGuire said the average number is 55 per year, according to the National Weather Service.
What Else Does the App Provide?
According to the Red Cross media release, the app also has these featured included:
- Location-based NOAA tornado, severe thunderstorm and flood watch and warning alerts;
- Enhanced weather maps;
- One-touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends that they are out of harm’s way;
- Simple steps and checklists people can use to create an emergency plan and share it with household members;
- Preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity;
- Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm;
- Locations of open Red Cross shelters; and
- Badges users can earn through interactive quizzes and share on social networks.
Tips for staying safe when a tornado is spotted are also included in the app, McGuire said. Just download and visit the “prepare” section.
How to Get the App