We were like prairie dogs when the snow squall alert sounded through our phones Tuesday morning.
Alarmed, we picked up our heads and looked around. One “huh” later we were back to our routine, in bright sunshine with barely a flake on the ground.
We asked what you thought about it, and got a flurry of reactions.
Many of you thought it was overkill for the conditions.
“Rename it to ‘Average Winter Tuesday in N. MI’ alert” suggested one reader. Another cheekily marked himself “safe.”
Several also pointed out the irony of sending driving condition alarms to our phones, which we’re not supposed to touch when we’re driving.
Others said they appreciated the heads up, and thought it a good service that technology can provide.
This same conversation is echoing across the nation, as this is the NWS’ first press of its snow squall button, and many of our East Coast neighbors got it, too.
Of course a Wednesday squall in one New York state county caused 60 crashes, and people wondered where the alert was then.
We can appreciate the alarm’s core safety intent and the difficulties in rolling out something new that tracks something intense, short-lived and changeable like a snow squall.
But we’d like to see it continue to evolve and perhaps differentiate itself from what we up here largely view as a true emergencies, like impending warheads and tornadoes.
To this point we offer some suggestions:
Change the alarm tone to something more pleasing and less knee-jerk panic, like a song from “Frozen” or the jaunty “Let it Snow.”
Flatter our northern Michigan expectation of snow in winter and buoy our spirits by wrapping each alert with “You got this.”
Compose the alert in rhyme. “Snow” works easily with “don’t go.”
Or just play it straight and add opt-out instructions to the message. Most phone settings offer an array of emergency alert options to opt in or out of, and though we’d recommend staying connected, many of you said you like the choice.
Responders and law enforcement also offered up their advice (on distraction and timing), and to the National Weather Service Gaylord’s credit, they seemed open to suggestion.
“We got a lot of feedback,” said John Boris, meteorologist and science and operations officer at the federal weather station.
Boris said weather officials learned two main lessons from this week’s snow squall alert: they should be more judicious about issuing them and narrow the geographic scope of future alerts.
Above all, we appreciate the effort to keep us safer and understand the difficulty in doing so.
We’re a tough bunch to please and are especially critical about what constitutes rough winter weather.
We wouldn’t want to see alerts become a liability, like lifeguards in so many lakeshore communities. Nor would we want alerts to be reduced to background noise to which we no longer listen.
Squall alerts will likely always run the risk of our own squalling but we appreciate the effort.