What is NOAA?

Q: While watching the weather on our local television station during a thunderstorm that was producing tornado clouds, the weather person said to keep our NOAA tuned in. What was he referring to? Because we live so far out in the woods, maybe this is something I should look into? Thank you.
– Margaret, via e-mail

A: NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that’s part of the United States Department of Commerce. The agency is far-reaching in what it does; one of its many branches is NOAA National Weather Radio.

The All Hazards NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) station broadcasts local weather forecasts continually, all day, every day, and also issues watches, warnings and alerts. You can buy weather radios that are equipped with a special alarm feature that sounds an alert to give you immediate information about a life-threatening situation.
NOAA joins forces with the Federal Communication Commission’s Emergency Alert System and works with other local, state, and federal officials to offer more comprehensive information than a local weather station can. Not only does the NWR broadcast warnings regarding natural disasters or alerts about severe weather, it will post warnings about environmental problems too (the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a recent example).

• For the radio – To find a radio station in your area, visit the comprehensive state-by-state directory at:
• For the computer –  To access an Internet-based interactive map of warnings and forecasts, go to: