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National Weather Service investigating why some did not get alert before Virginia Beach EF-3 tornado

'If people didn’t receive an alert, it could be a problem with a cell tower. It could be an issue with a carrier.'
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Virginia Beach tornado - 2023
Posted at 10:23 PM, May 05, 2023

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Many people know to take cover when they receive weather alerts, especially for tornadoes. While some people did get an alert ahead of Sunday's EF-3 tornado in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach, others like Austin Hewitt said they never received a notification.

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"No, I did not get the alert," Hewitt said. "If my phone didn’t get it I’m not the only one that was around this area that didn’t get the notification. I have T-Mobile."

Hewitt said he was working a shift at North End Pizza in Great Neck during Sunday’s tornado. His co-worker, Mark Wilde, believes he got the alert too late.

"I got the alert as I was dropping off my second delivery," Wilde said. "I got onto West Great Neck and got to about Great Neck Elementary. Then I saw a tree that was probably about 40 feet tall down. That’s when I knew a tornado had touched down. I was attempting to drive back to work but could have been caught in the middle of it."

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Officials with the National Weather Service (NWS) said the people in the area should have gotten an alert.

"Really it was those folks who in the Great Neck area, going up through Chelsea, Queens Elm, the entire Haversham area should have received it, everyone on Bay Island, First landing and Fort Story," Jeff Orrock with the NWS said.

The NWS plays a pivotal role in making sure the alerts get out.

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"We create the warning," Orrock said. "Then the carriers have to deliver it. We’re not delivering it directly to the cell phone towers ourselves."

He said that the NWS is reaching out to cell phone providers to get insight.

"If people didn’t receive an alert, it could be a problem with a cell tower," he said. "It could be an issue with a carrier.

Orrock recommends you go into the settings of your phone and turn on emergency alerts.

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