VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Emergency managers in Indian River County, hard-hit by hurricanes last year, thought the best way to get out weather alerts was by e-mail _ until they learned that AOL was tagging the messages as spam.
``Because we send out mail in large numbers, it becomes a pattern for spam senders,'' said Basil Dancy, a county computer software engineer.
The problem started last year with frequent alerts during an unusually busy hurricane season when four major storms hit Florida, including two _ Frances and Jeanne _ that swept over Indian River County with winds above 100 mph.
About 4,200 people signed up for the county's e-mail alert service, offering quick alerts on hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather emergenciess.
``In the 16 years I've been in this office, it is the No. 1 thing that best informs the public,'' said Nathan McCollum, the county's emergency management coordinator.
But not everyone was receiving the alerts. ``We know it's going out but, in the heat of the moment, it's not a reliable system,'' McCollum said.
The county is working with AOL to fix the problem. In the meantime, AOL users are being told to put the county's e-mail account in their computer's address book so their computers know to accept the messages.