Tsunami warning message from weather service just a test

By on February 6, 2018

The National Weather Service says an alert from the U.S. Tsunami Warning System sent out Tuesday morning was actually a test message, and there are no tsunami warnings in effect for the Outer Banks or the rest of the Atlantic or Gulf coasts.

A number of weather and other emergency information applications on mobile devices posted the alert around 8:30 a.m., but did not include that it was a test in the headline.

“The test from this morning appears to have all the proper test coding and wording identical to past test messages which have been conducted routinely without issue for several years,” said Jeff Orrock, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va.

The alert was only sent to mobile devices, and was not broadcast by NOAA Weather Radio or local radio and TV stations via the Emergency Alert System.

“Some users may have received notifications that a tsunami warning is in effect for their area,” according to a statement from the Newport weather office at 9:20 a.m. “There are no tsunami warnings in effect at the current time. Again, there are no tsunami warnings in effect.”

“These tests are conducted to ensure proper communication between the Tsunami Warning Center and other parts of NOAA, including local NWS offices,” Orrock said. “This is a very efficient and fast warning system which needs to be tested routinely.”

“In this situation a test message appears to have been picked up and redistributed and NOAA will work to determine the exact cause,” said Orrock.

Weather-content provider Accuweather issued a statement Tuesday evening, saying the alert from the NWS had incorrect coding, and therefore they defaulted to sending the warning to customers and app users.

“The AccuWeather computer issued the NWS warning because the NWS computer coding indicated it was either real or a test. The NWS coding was conflicted,” according to the statement.

The company said the National Weathers Service carried the warning on a page of its own website, but it was not marked as a test.

The Weather Channel also sent the alert to its devices and some television stations ran a crawl showing the warning.

“To suggest that the AccuWeather system should have interpreted the warning as a test would put lives at risk when people might have only minutes to react to a tsunami, if it was a real warning,” according to the statement.

“With such conflicting coding by NWS, the AccuWeather system defaulted to the interpretation to save lives rather than place lives at risk.”

The National Weather Service had not responded to AccuWeather’s claim as of Tuesday night.

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