The Edmond Sun

March 5, 2013

Red Cross offers new tornado app

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — It’s just a matter of time before Edmond experiences the next tornado warning.

They can form anytime of year. In February 2009, a tornado formed near Northwest 178th Street and tracked through Oak Tree, reaching EF2 strength (estimated top winds of 111-135 mph) before dissipating a half mile northeast of Waterloo and Broadway. It blew down trees and damaged structures.

And they can occur day or night.

Steven Root, president and CEO of Edmond’s WeatherBank, said conditions will likely be present for an elevated tornado risk during the coming months. Root said exactly where they occur — in central Oklahoma, east of the state or west of the state — is not known.

When severe weather does strike, you now have a new option for tracking it.

Red Cross regional spokesman Ken Garcia said the organization has launched its official “Tornado App,” putting lifesaving information right in the hands of people who live in, visit or have loved ones in tornado-prone areas.

Garcia said the free app — available in English or Spanish — gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone and tablet users instant access to local and real-time information, so they know what to do before, during and after a tornado.

The app includes a high-pitched siren and “tornado warning!” alert that signals people when a NOAA tornado warning has been issued in their area – even if the app is closed, Garcia said. An “all clear!” alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or has been canceled, he said.

Regional Red Cross CEO Janienne Bella said tornadoes can occur during the overnight hours when people are sleeping.

“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,” Bella said.

Features of the app include: 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; and preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity.

It’s the latest in a series of apps created by the Red Cross, which responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year and helps people respond to emergencies by providing these free apps.

Mobile activity soared due to Superstorm Sandy, according to the Red Cross. More than 400,000 people downloaded the Red Cross Hurricane App; nearly 6 million NOAA weather alerts were sent.

The Red Cross needs the public’s help to continue its work. You can make a donation to the Red Cross by visiting, texting REDCROSS to 90999 or calling 1-800-REDCROSS. | 341-2121, ext. 108