This article describes a first application of mobile telephony alerts for an extreme weather event - the progression and landfall of cyclone Phailin. The international media picked up on the cyclone Phailin story (11th-12th October 2013) - 800000 people were evacuated within 48h. Here we describe a novel scheme using Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) simulations and mobile phone alerts for cyclone warnings. Cellphones have a deep penetration even in rural pockets of India and it is anticipated that the results of this commentary will inspire disaster mitigation efforts over many parts of the developing world. © 2013 Royal Meteorological Society.