National Weather Service will debut new flood warning system to get people to listen

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A couple stroll down Lakeshore Drive along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain after it was flooded in the wake of Hurricane Barry on July 13, 2019 in Mandeville, Louisiana.Scott Olson / Getty Images

pregnant woman and her son died in a flash flood in southeastern Pennsylvania last Thursday after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for the region. She was on the phone with 911 as her car was swept away by the sudden rush of water.

Just days later, Tropical Storm Barry dropped 5-6 inches of rain on the Gulf Coast — far less than the 15-20 inches originally forecast to top the already swollen Mississippi River. Though flooding damaged homes and knocked out power to 153,000 people in Louisiana, the storm’s effect was not nearly as devastating as expected.

There’s a clear need for residents to take emergency alert warnings for flash floods and other disasters seriously, but with a shaky track record of predictions, forecasters are questioning how best to provide warnings that will not be met with skepticism.

The NWS, which sends out approximately 12,000 flash flood warnings every year, hopes that a new emergency alert system is the answer.

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