New Brunswick

'It's about where you are': Tornado alerts only issued to those at risk

An emergency alert was sent to people's cellphones on Saturday in parts of southwestern New Brunswick. If you didn't receive the alert then you weren't at risk of a possible tornado, according to Environment Canada.

Environment Canada issued the alert to people in specific regions

Meteorologists tracked a severe thunderstorm over the region on Saturday. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

Some people in New Brunswick are wondering why they weren't alerted to a possible tornado on Saturday.

An alert was issued for people in southwestern New Brunswick around 4 p.m. advising that a tornado could develop in the area.

The alert was issued for people in Grand Lake, Queens County, Oromocto and Sunbury County.

Mel Lemmon, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said only those in areas at risk of a tornado received the alert on their mobile devices.

"If you are outside of that region, even though you may not be that far away, you probably wouldn't get it," he said. "So, it's based on the location of where you are."

Environment Canada says only people in specific regions should have received the emergency alert Saturday afternoon, similar to this one shown from an earlier date in Manitoba. (Brett Prudy/CBC)

Lemmon said the system is designed to alert people in a specific region, including people who may not be from the area, but are passing through at the time of a warning.

"So if you're travelling, then the phone would know where you are," said Lemmon. "It's not about where you're from, it's about where you are."

Environment Canada is one of many groups to issue emergency alerts through the national Alert Ready system. Lemmon said a tornado is one of the highest levels of alerts.

"So, if there's a tornado, there's very little lead time. So this is one of the alert types that has been decided that we need to get this out right away."

Lemmon said it's rare to see a tornado in New Brunswick and expects that an alert like the one issued Saturday would only happen once or twice a year.

He said he hasn't heard any feedback about how the alert worked on Saturday, but is impressed with its accuracy,

"But … I'm glad to hear that it did go out and people were being alerted, right. I mean that's the main goal of this."

Environment Canada lifted the tornado warning from its website about 30 minutes after the alert was sent out on Saturday, but never sent out a followup alert to advise the warning was over.

Environment Canada said that's not part of the protocol right now.


About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.