Local NWS office, public react to Tsunami Warning false alarm

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It was a warning no one living along the coast ever wants to hear.

Many Americans got an alert Tuesday morning, warning of a tsunami. Turns out, it was only a test.

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“I was gonna run down to the beach and see if I saw a wave or something or the wave getting sucked out,” said Russ Mathie, who received the alert on his phone.

A rude awakening Monday morning as many Americans along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts received a message on their phones, notifying them of a possible tsunami threat. But it was a false alarm.

The confusion comes on the heels of another false alarm in Hawaii. But Mathie says he won’t look at the government as the boy who cried wolf.



“People make mistakes. What happened in Hawaii was really unfortunate. I wouldn’t want to be ducking for cover with ballistic missiles falling on my head. Technology’s great when it works, but sometimes it doesn’t,” said Mathie.

AccuWeather was one of the outlets that pushed an alert to subscribers. The company said in a statement the National Weather Service miscoded a test message as an actual warning, so AccuWeather’s automated system sent out the alert.

National Weather Service Wilmington’s Steve Pfaff says it was a busy morning trying to get the right message out to the public.

“We know the message needs to be unified with a hurricane, with a tornado. Media partners, emergency managers, the Weather Service, we all work hand in hand to make sure that message is clear, it’s accurate, and it’s timely,” said Pfaff, the office’s Warning Coordination Meteorologist.

National Weather Service offices, including Wilmington’s, sent out tweets clarifying that there was no threat shortly after the initial alerts.

“We want people to rely on not just the Weather Service and the federal government side of it, but also the many private meteorological services that are out there. We all work together for public safety,” said Pfaff.

The National Weather Service is refuting AccuWeather’s claims that the message was coded incorrectly. A spokeswoman said the service is “working with private sector companies to determine why some systems did not recognize the coding.”

The incorrect alert was not pushed out via the WWAY StormTrack3 weather app, which is available for iPhone and Android.