Authorities in Hennepin and Ramsey counties say they'll have a new tool this summer to alert the public to severe weather.
The counties will be partnering with Clear Channel Outdoor to display tornado warnings on 47 digital billboards around the Twin Cities, as well as a half-dozen digital road signs operated by Hennepin County.
"Motorists have been really traditionally very difficult to reach," said Eric Waage, director of emergency management for Hennepin County. "They may or may not have a radio on, they may be thinking about other things or are concentrating on driving, and are really not aware that weather conditions are changing in a negative way."
Dan Luna, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, said he hopes the signs will reach motorists that traditional alerts don't.
"One of our big concerns has always been fatalities that involve automobiles and tornadoes," Luna said. "It's really a challenge to get the word out to people, when there is a tornado warning, to do the appropriate thing in a car."
About 10 percent of all tornado fatalities are caused by cars, Luna said.
"It's really a big concern for us in the agency," he said.
Clear Channel says that it can operate the signs remotely, around the clock, to get the alerts up within minutes around the Twin Cities.
"I like to think of our digital boards as a website on a stick," said Susan Adams Loyd, Clear Channel's president and general manager. "There's actually an operator on the other end, that will be engaging with the emergency personnel to trigger that response."