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Test of tsunami warning system leads to erroneous alert on some apps

Union Leader Correspondent

February 06. 2018 10:51PM
Tsunami warnings erroneously appeared on some third-party weather apps Tuesday morning. 

A monthly test conducted by the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center Tuesday morning led to some panic when the test warning somehow made its way to cellphones across New England.

Shortly after the test message was sent about 8:30 a.m., the National Weather Service began receiving reports that a tsunami warning appeared on third-party weather apps, according to Justin Arnott, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service’s Gray, Maine, office.

To clear up the confusion, the weather service sent a tweet at 8:47 a.m. advising that there was no real tsunami threat.

Arnott said the Tsunami Warning Center tests the alert system monthly. For some reason, Tuesday’s test alert showed up as a real message on some third-party weather apps and websites, including

In some cases, those apps delivered alerts to cellphone users.

The message stated that a tsunami warning was in effect until 9:28 a.m.

Arnott stressed that the test alert never appeared on any of the National Weather Service’s websites.

“We’re still trying to track down how it made that transition from the weather service to an outside agency’s third-party app. It normally doesn’t make it to mobile devices. We’ll be looking into why that part of it happened,” Arnott said.

Some weather app users who received the message sounded the alarm on social media, while others called the weather service to ask if the message was real.

Arnott said the test alert covered offices all along the Eastern Seaboard.

AccuWeather issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the National Weather Service miscoded the test as a real warning.

“While the words ‘TEST’ were in the header, the actual codes read by computers used coding for real warning, indicating it was a real warning,” the company said.

While Arnott said the warning wasn’t issued on the weather service’s website, AccuWeather said it did appear on some pages as a real warning.

“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.,” the company said.

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