National Weather Service investigating false tsunami warning

The National Weather Service (NWS) said on Tuesday that it is investigating a false tsunami warning sent to east coast residents just weeks after a false alarm sent by Hawaiian officials about a ballistic missile sent residents there into a panic.

An AccuWeather alert sent earlier Tuesday morning warned cellphone users from Maine to as far south as Florida and Louisiana of an incoming tsunami, according to Twitter reports.

The alert was quickly corrected, and within five minutes the National Weather Service was issuing all clear messages on its various social media accounts.

"A Tsunami Test was conducted earlier this morning, that did have TEST in the message. We are currently trying to find out how a message went out as a warning. We will update you when we find out more," the service tweeted.


In a statement to The Hill, the NWS confirmed that it issued a test message that was disseminated as a false alarm push alert by "at least one" private sector company.

"The National Tsunami Warning Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued a routine test message at approximately 8:30 a.m. ET this morning," an NWS spokesperson wrote in an email.

"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 goes on to say the NWS will investigate why the push alert was sent out across the eastern seaboard.

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

"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."

In January, a false alarm from Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency warning residents about an incoming ballistic missile was left uncorrected for nearly 40 minutes. The agency's chief resigned and the worker who sent the alert was fired.

"Every state and local government that originates alerts needs to learn from these mistakes," Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said at an FCC meeting at the time. "Each should ensure that it has adequate safeguards in place to prevent the transmission of false alerts, and each should have a plan in place for how to immediately correct a false alert."

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it will investigate Tuesday's false alarm.

--This report was updated at 12:12 p.m.