MEMPHIS, Tenn — After launching in December, people are wondering, why did the IPAWs alert not sound during the arctic blast.
The system was designed to help warn Shelby County about major emergencies, disasters, terroristic acts and other imminent danger.
“Each situation is different,” said Charles Newell, Shelby County Deputy Admin of Emergency Management. “This system would be rarely used, and again I want to emphasize major events, it’s just according to what the event is.”
The National Weather Service is generally in charge of natural disaster alerts which require immediate action including:
- Dust Storm Warnings
- Extreme Wind Warnings
- High-Damage Threat Flash Flood Warnings
- Hurricane/Typhoon Warnings
- High-Damage Severe Thunderstorm Warnings
- Snow Squall Warnings
- Storm Surge Warnings
- Tornado Warnings
- Tsunami Warnings
However, cold temperatures do not crack the list.
“Cold weather is not considered destructive,” said Darone Jones, Meteorologist-In-Charge of the Memphis National Weather Service. Only 10% of severe weather would qualify for some form of alert.
The issues caused by cold temperatures like power outages, low water pressure, and boil water advisories do not fall under the National Weather Service’s responsibility.
“That would fall on emergency management and community leaders,” says Jones.
Emergency Management leaders say the county was close to issuing an alert during the rolling blackouts several MLGW customers saw in December. They say the Tennessee Valley Authority was a big reason why an alert was not sent.
“TVA advised MLGW that the rolling blackouts were not necessary,” said Charles Newell, Shelby County Deputy Admin of Emergency Management, “And after that information came to us of course, we didn’t need to deploy IPAWS.”
The other conditions many saw in the Arctic Blast did not meet an IPAWs threshold. When ABC24 asked what would have led to an alert, Shelby County Emergency Management & Homeland Security said the activation of IPAWS may be used in the following situations:
- Presidential Alerts
- AMBER Alerts
- Severe Weather Watches and Warnings
- Hazardous Materials Release
- Evacuation Information
- Any other situation requiring population protection instructions
However any information outside of this was unclear how much worse the Arctic Blast had to be before triggering an alert, just the conditions needed to be more extreme.
While their boil advisories and rolling blackout warnings may not be part of the system right now, MLGW President Doug McGowen is hoping to change that. He told ABC24 he will request MLGW be part of the city and county-wide alerts if the company is allowed.