I designed MyWARN to be the app that I would want my family to have.
Jeff Cross and I started working on the app in December of 2010. I designed a simple user interface that would notify users about severe weather watches and warnings that they were located in or drove into.
Then came April 27th and the largest outbreak of tornadoes in U.S. and Alabama history.
That afternoon, I was tracking the tornadoes in my job as a meteorologist at The Weather Company.
Around 2:30, I began to monitor a supercell thunderstorm in Central Mississippi near Philadelphia. Projecting this storm’s motion, I knew that it could affect the City of Tuscaloosa in less than two hours.
My son Chris was a junior at the University of Alabama. I called him to tell him to be ready around 5 o’clock. There would be one storm prior to that in Tuscaloosa County, but it would be north of the campus. I told him that he would hear the sirens sound for the first storm, but that it would miss him. But the second storm had his name on it, I feared. In fact, when I saw the actual tornado live on television skycams just after 5 p.m., I commented that I hoped we weren’t going to pick up a body in a few hours.
Chris would later say that he could hear the seriousness in my voice and took action because of it. He and his friends would be in safe shelter when the violent EF4 tornado passed less than three blocks from his house.
If I had not communicated with him, he says he would not have been in safe shelter despite the sirens. The sirens sound so often that students paid no attention to them.
Sixty four people died in the tornado, which was on the ground for 81 miles, all the way to Birmingham. This despite the fact that excellent warnings were in place an hour and 15 minutes before the storm reach Tuscaloosa and over thirty minutes before it got to Birmingham!
The lesson is that National Weather Service warnings are excellent. But people must receive them, take them seriously and act when they are issued.
The morning after the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado, Jeff and I met with a new urgency to compete the project we had started months earlier.
The result is MyWARN. Put it to work for you now.
Get MyWARN now from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store