It's been nine months since Hamilton County rolled out a new warning system. The emergency management agency can use the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, or IPAWS, to alert residents to severe weather, AMBER Alerts, or public safety risks. So far, the system has not been used for weather.

Spring showers have turned severe twice this season. Sunday's storms knocked out power to some in Hamilton County, and brought down trees in Cohutta, Georgia. Storms on April 2-3, caused more extensive damage.

According to the Storm Prediction Center's damage report, numerous trees fell in Hamilton County, and there were 19 confirmed storm damage reports across the Channel 3 viewing area.

The criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning is hail 1" in diameter or larger, wind gusts of 58 mph or greater, or a tornado. Lightning is not a factor.

READ MORE | Are tornado sirens needed in Hamilton County?

With two recent weather events, Channel 3 wanted to know if the I-PAWS system was used to alert Hamilton County residents. Amy Maxwell, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Emergency Management, says it was not. 

"If we put them out all the time, people are not going to take them seriously, and we want that message to come across as ' this is a serious matter,'" states Maxwell.

According to TEMA, 33 counties across Tennessee have the ability to use the alert system. It's up to each county to select when to use it.

READ MORE | New Emergency Alert System test set for noon in Hamilton County

"You only have 90 characters, so you must get it right the first time. You want to give out the correct information, but then again, you don't want to leave out information," adds Maxwell.

Hamilton County EMA suggests using a weather radio or other alerting system. Currently, 11 counties in our area have additional services that alert users to severe thunderstorms with high winds and large hail. Hamilton County did have an additional service years ago but very few people signed up.

Maxwell says, "We had maybe a couple of thousand people register for it, and we have a population of more than 350,000 now."

The Channel 3 Weather App has an alerting tool. It allows you to customize your alerts so you are aware of anything from lightning to storms in your area. The app is free, and the Storm Alert weather team is here to help you customize it. 

Maxwell tells Channel 3, IPAWS will be used in the event of a tornado warning, a spill that could contaminate residents, tropical force storm winds, wildfire evacuation, flood evacuations, and missing persons alerts.

If you have a comment or a weather related question, please feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.