Weather warning triggers new cell phone alerts in Hawaii

Morgan Boyle
Morgan Boyle
Tera Rivera
Tera Rivera
George Burnett
George Burnett

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The stormy conditions during the weekend triggered flash flood warnings and a new mobile alert system that caught some cell phone users by surprise. Hawaii is finally joining a national program that began last April. There are three types of messages: presidential alerts to the nation, amber alerts for child abduction, and weather warnings about imminent threats to life and property.

New technology allows emergency alerts to be sent directly to cell phones. The National Weather service issued three flash flood warnings for Oahu on Sunday, launching the service in Hawaii for the first time.

"I just felt my phone going crazy and I checked it out," said Hawaii Kai resident Morgan Boyle.

"I've never seen anything like it before and it was definitely helpful," said Pearl City resident Tera Rivera.

But not everyone is receiving the messages from the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). State Civil Defense officials estimate the alerts reached 10% to 20% of cell phone users, depending on their carrier and their handset.

"All of the vendors are at different stages of implementing, and in a lot of cases, vendors have to field new handsets. The older handsets aren't all capable of receiving the CMAS messages," explained George Burnett of State Civil Defense.

The alert targeted people in flash flood warning areas. The emergency messages are specifically tailored to your current location.

"If you're visiting from the mainland and you have a cell phone that has local coverage, it will receive the local warning message," Burnett said.

Subscribers automatically receive these alerts if they have a compatible handset. With so many people carrying cell phones these days, the service offers another way to reach them instantly in case of an emergency.

"If you're not at home, it's good to see if there's an emergency. Maybe a tsunami is coming or there could be a flash flood or crazy weather. You could get home and prepare for it," said Boyle.

CMAS messages also went out on Maui for a flash flood warning on Monday morning.

If you don't want to receive the alerts, contact your carrier.

For more information about CMAS, check out

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