National Weather Service in Hot Water After False Tsunami Warning
Less than a month after Hawaiian official sent out a false alert that a ballistic missile was headed to the islands, the National Weather Service (NWS) is struggling to explain a test tsunami alert mistakenly advanced as a real warning.
Cell phones from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard to as far away as Texas and Florida received the warning on Tuesday morning, released by the NWS and pushed out by private sector weather forecast organizations, including AccuWeather.
AccuWeather was quick to blame the federal government and issued a press release on Twitter, saying it has a “sophisticated system” for interpreting the information it gets from the NWS.
The press release says, in part:
The responsibility is on the NWS to properly and consistently code the messages, for only they know if the message is correct or not.
As reported by AccuWeather, once discovered that the NWS had incorrectly coded the warning, we sent messages via social channels that no tsunami warning is in effect for the East Coast of the U.S.
This is not the first time legitimate warning coding was embedded erroneously by the NWS and consequently triggered alerts. In October 2014, AccuWeather advised NWS in writing about the potential for this problem to be repeated if not fixed.
This is all a matter of public record.
We are continuing to work with NWS to determine why this coding was improperly embedded in its test alert system.
AccuWeather Responds to Miscoded NWS Tsunami Warning: https://t.co/j1sNXCYeIE
— AccuWeather (@accuweather) February 6, 2018
The NWS, without naming AccuWeather, defended itself in a statement to the Hill, which said it had issued a test message to “at least one” private forecaster.
“The National Tsunami Warning Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued a routine test message at approximately 8:30 a.m. ET this morning,” an NWS spokesperson wrote in an email. “The test message was released by at least one private sector company as an official Tsunami Warning, resulting in reports of tsunami warnings received via phones and other media across the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.”
***THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING***
A Tsunami Test was conducted earlier this morning, that did have TEST in the message. We are currently trying to find out how a message went out as a warning. We will update you when we find out more.
— NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) February 6, 2018
The National Tsunami Warning Center did NOT issue a tsunami Warning, Watch, or Advisory for any part of the United States or Canada this morning.
— NWS Tsunami Alerts (@NWS_NTWC) February 6, 2018
The NWS told the Hill it was investigating the incident while trying to shift blame for the mistaken alert.
“The test message was not disseminated to the public via any communication channels operated by the National Weather Service,” the statement adds.
“We’re currently looking into why the test message was distributed by at least one private sector company and will provide more information as soon as we have it.”
Although the warning did create a stir in the states where cell phones received the alert, the mistake was corrected in about five minutes—more than half an hour sooner than it took to reverse the warning in Hawaii that caused widespread panic.