Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said the death toll from tornadoes that blew through the Midwest on Sunday would have been higher without the emergency warning system in place.
Schock, who represents part of some of the worst hit areas, said he was surprised when he began getting warning alerts on his phone.
An emergency alert system started last year allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to blast out warning alerts to cellphone carriers in certain locations. Individuals will “automatically receive alerts” on phones compatible with the Wireless Emergency Alerts program.
At least six deaths and dozens of injuries have been reported, according to The Associated Press. Schock described the devastation as “amazing.”
“I came over yesterday right after it hit, and we're standing in neighborhoods that literally the only thing left is the pavement,” he said. “Not a single structure. Not a single light post. The homes are completely vacuumed up.”
FEMA is in continued contact with several states, including Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. It has also deployed a team to Illinois.
President Obama has been briefed on the storms, according to reports, and is in contact with federal and state officials.
Illinois seems to be worst hit, specifically the town of Washington, Ill., where more than 250 homes were estimated to be destroyed. Dozens of tornadoes touched down in 12 states, according to The Associated Press.
Lawmakers have sent their thoughts and prayers to those hit by the storm, including Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), who sent a string of tweets out with storm instructions and information about the Red Cross Sunday night.
— This post was updated at 5:10 p.m.