In Harrisburg, Illinois a tornado hit at 4:56 a.m., when people were still asleep and were not paying attention to the weather warnings. Six people died during the Wednesday morning storms.
Others told News 4 that text alerts gave them advance warning.
The service in Saline County, Illinois is provide by Nixle. Many communities in the St. Louis area use it, but not many people seem to know about it.
St. Louis County's Office of Emergency Management has used the system since the summer of 2010. So far, 1,689 subscribers have signed up for their alerts.
St. Louis City uses the system for police messages and weather emergencies. Eddie Roth, Public Safety Director, says he encourages more people to sign up.
"This is a secure system. You will not be spammed by St. Louis. We are very sparing in the information we that give. Only severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings. If there is an event, information on where to take shelter," said Roth.
Communities in St. Charles County and St. Clair County also use Nixle while O'Fallon, Illinois and Jefferson County, Missouri use a different service called Code Red.
All provide phone warnings in an emergency.
Users can sign up for free. If you're typically charged for receiving text messages, this alert would result in a text charge.
St. Louis City and County don't pay to use Nixle. They use the free program that provides email and text alerts.
To sign up, visit the website: www.nixle.com for instructions.
Information about Jefferson County's system is available here: http://www.jeffco911.org
You can enroll in O'Fallon, Illinois program here: cne.coderedweb.com/Default.aspx