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Feb 6, 2018 10:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tsunami Alert Was Just A Test, National Weather Service Says

Feb 6, 2018 6:23 PM

At about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, cellphones throughout the East End started buzzing with a National Weather Service warning, alerting that a tsunami was on its way.

But it was just a test.

The National Tsunami Warning Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, or NWS, issued a routine test message on Tuesday morning warning that a tsunami—a series of dangerous waves in a large body of water, often caused by an earthquake or an underwater volcano—was approaching, according to a NWS statement released later that day.

“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,” the statement said. “The test message was not disseminated to the public via any communication channels operated by the National Weather Service.”

It continued: “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.”

Austin Handler of Water Mill said he didn’t believe the alert when it first popped up on his iPhone through his AccuWeather application, explaining that it immediately reminded him of the emergency alert that mistakenly warned Hawaii residents of an incoming ballistic missile attack last month.

“I think that was on my mind,” said Mr. Handler, who owns Water Mill-based Mabley Handler Interior Design with his wife, Jennifer Mabley. The worst part about the scenario, according to Mr. Handler, was that the AccuWeather alert that he received didn’t say anything about it being a test. In fact, he said, he had to dig through the app—he estimates about “three clicks” further—to see any indication that it was a test.

Mr. Handler explained that the alert also appeared “inconsistent”: Some friends and family in the area, including in Sag Harbor and Noyac, received the alert, while others in the same area did not.

A screenshot of the alert shows that Mr. Handler did not have the word “test” in the alert, but others reported that their phones clearly indicated it was a test—another apparent inconsistency.

“Not only did it create unnecessary panic but it undermines the credibility of future alerts,” Mr. Handler added.

AccuWeather also released a statement after passing on the NWS test alert.

“This morning, AccuWeather passed on a National Weather Service tsunami warning that was intended by the NWS to be a test but was miscoded by the NWS as a real warning,” the statement said in part. “AccuWeather has the most sophisticated system for passing on NWS tsunami warnings based on a complete computer scan of the codes used by the NWS. 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.”

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Well, I guess it’s a good thing this ain’t Hawaii!
By G (342), Southampton on Feb 6, 18 3:26 PM