“Destructive” Severe Thunderstorm Warning category to now trigger Wireless Emergency Alerts


CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA have been made available for most mobile phone users over the last several years. They should be included in a comprehensive weather preparedness plan for everybody.

WEAs are cell-phone enabled alerts that are based on your location and can share life-saving information with you immediately when action is required to protect life and property.

WEA is enabled on many smart-phone devices without downloading an app, so these alerts are more likely to get to you when needed. In addition, these alerts are able to surpass ringtone volume settings, meaning they can help make sure you wake up if severe weather comes in the dead of the night. WEA can be one of your at least two ways to get life-saving reliable severe weather alerts.

If you’ve ever gotten the alert tone on your phone with a box that looks something like the below image, then you’re signed up for WEA and have to take no action. If not, at the bottom of the article are some instructions to help you ensure that WEA is on and available on your smart phone.

Example WEA sent to cell phone for tornado warning. These are one of the most common types of alerts.

WEA is already used for any and all tornado warnings, for flash flood warnings with the “emergency” tag, child abduction emergencies and more. Read more about WEA here.

WEA are used for several types of alerts, including Weather Alerts. Here are some of the WEAs you can get notified for. You’ll always be notified for Tornado Warnings. You also will be notified for Flash Flood Emergencies, the most extreme type of Flash Flood Warnings. In addition, some winter alerts can be sent via WEA.

Beginning August 2nd, the National Weather Service will begin using three damage threat categories on all severe thunderstorm warnings. We first told you about this during our Severe Weather Special Weathering The Storm. Severe thunderstorm warnings will be broken down into three categories to better inform the public with more information (Note; this same process has already happened with tornado warnings).

Sample WEA for severe thunderstorm warnings. This new “tag” is for extremely damaging storms with the highest impact to life and property, meaning you won’t get a WEA for every type of severe thunderstorm.

Here’s a little more about the three categories for severe thunderstorm warnings to help distinguish between low impact and high impact events. The damage threat categories to be used are “base”, “considerable” and “destructive” which will allow for better messaging.

  1. The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75 inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the warned area.
  2. The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75 inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA.
  3. The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA. When no damage threat tag is present, damage is expected to be at the base level.

This change has been made since 13 of the 22 costliest weather disasters in 2020 were from severe thunderstorms. The new destructive tag will help bring more awareness to high-impact dangerous storms impacting areas, giving local residents more lead time and better warnings when severe weather threatens.

How to Make Sure Your Phone
has WEAs Turned On:


  1. Open your settings app on your Android Device.
  2. Tap “More” to see more settings.
  3. Look for “Cell Broadcasts” or “Emergency Alerts.”
    – If you can’t find those, try searching within settings for “emergency” or “broadcast”
  4. Once you’ve found it, make sure your switches are all toggled on. We highly recommend you keep all wireless emergency alerts on, especially weather alerts.


  1. Open your settings app on your Apple Device.
  2. Select “Notifications” from the menu.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the screen. Ensure all Government Alerts are on. We highly recommend you keep all wireless emergency alerts on.

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