West coast alarmed by false tsunami alert

A forecaster with Seattle's KOMO, assured users that a tsunami warning from the National Weather Service was a mistake.

Story highlights

  • A test alert from the National Weather Service was accidentally shared publicly
  • It issued a tsunami warning for parts of the Northwest
  • The service quickly noted the post was a mistake
Some mobile and Web users got a disconcerting warning on Wednesday when digital alerts incorrectly showed a tsunami may be headed toward the coast.
A National Weather Service message, that was meant as a test, instead appeared on the service's website and was pushed to mobile apps that rely on it for information.
AccuWeather's app was among those that sent a tsunami warning to users in parts of California and Washington.
"AccuWeather sent out an automatic alert to our App users, -- a programmed message to get this warning out as quickly as possible," said Evan Myers, chief operating officer of AccuWeather. "We subsequently determined that this was a test message from the National Weather Service and that the warning was not real."
The service's office in Seattle confirmed as much, tweeting: "A test message for a Tsunami Information statement is showing on our website. This is only a test. There is no tsunami threat."
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"We have retweeted NWS' clarification via social media," Myers said via email. "We apologize for any confusion regarding this test message. We are committed to providing critical life-saving information in a timely manner."
While the scare was addressed quickly, that didn't stop some social-media users from freaking out a little bit in the meantime.
"THIS IS A TEST. We've got a few folks calling in and freaking out about this message," Seth Wayne, a weather forecaster for Seattle's KOMO, wrote on Twitter.
The National Weather Service bulletin was sent at 9:30 a.m. PDT (12:30 p.m. ET).