Many Twin Tiers residents may have been surprised when their cell phones displayed a flood warning that had been issued by the National Weather Service.

The message was transmitted through the Wireless Emergency Alert system that was developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission in conjunction with service providers.

David Nicosia, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service Binghamton office, says the system sends out only "the real serious stuff" like warnings for flash flooding, a tornado or a hurricane.

Speaking on WNBF Radio's Binghamton Now program, Nicosia said the goal is to "highlight a threat area" that could be smaller than a county where the highest threat exists.

Nicosia said the transmitted warning then "hits the cell towers in that threat area." He said the idea is to target the message so it'll be received only by those most likely to be affected by the potentially-dangerous condition.

Because the targeted alerts will be transmitted on a limited basis, officials hope people will be more likely to heed the warnings.

The new warning system was set up a couple of years ago but the federal government only started to promote it in May.

More information about the Wireless Emergency Alert program can be obtained from FEMA at its website.