Digital billboards tell motorists of tornado warning in Arkansas

May 3, 2019

Chuck Robinson

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When tornadoes were spotted on Tuesday in northwest Arkansas, digital billboards flashed a tornado warning telling motorists they were in danger.

Ashby St. Outdoor, Fayetteville, Ark., has put a tornado warning system in place that is linked to the National Weather Service, according to a company news release.

The billboard company interrupts its advertising to inform the public of a possible tornado threat. When a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, if one of the company’s digital billboards is in the affected area a tornado warning message is displayed on it until the warning expires.

That happened April 30 in the Bentonville, Ark., area. The company’s new alert system displayed the tornado warning message on 33 digital billboards in northwest Arkansas.

tornado warning on digital billboards
Tornado warning signs were displayed April 30 in Bentonville, Ark., when the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area.

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been seen or picked up by radar.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the tornado warning included the Arkansas cities of Bentonville, Rogers, Bella Vista, Cave Springs, Decatur, Gentry, Siloam Springs, Pea Ridge, Highfill, Springtown, Miller, Centerton, Hiwasse, Vaughn, and Avoca. The warning also included Interstate I-49 between mile markers 85 and 93.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado touched down in Bergman, Ark., Tuesday afternoon. It is northeast of Harrison, Ark., and about 100 miles east of Bentonville. Here is an NWA.com video of it.

At least 25 tornadoes were reported Tuesday across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas, according to AccuWeather.

Ashby St. Outdoor has 61 digital billboards in Arkansas, 19 in Kansas, two in Missouri and one in Oklahoma.

This is the first automated alert system in the outdoor advertising industry, the company says in its news release.

Ashby St. Outdoor was founded in 2011, when Jim Matalone acquired Fowler Media. Matalone is a former president and CEO of NextMedia Outdoor. It has 2,000 billboards.

Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.