Both sides steadfast tsunami false alarm not their fault

How a tsunami warning last week appeared as a real threat to residents from Palm Beach County to Maine rather than a test is still a mystery with the National Weather Service and private-sector company AccuWeather both claiming it wasn’t their fault.

The National Tsunami Warning Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued a monthly tsunami test message at about 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6.

But at least one private sector company, whose CEO was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, did not explicitly say the NWS warning was a test until the push alert sent to user smart phones was clicked on.

“Got this alert on my phone this morning and almost fell over,” said a Delray Beach resident who contacted The Palm Beach Post. “Why??  There has to be a better way.”

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Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather initially said the NWS used flawed coding to issue the alert.

The firm, founded by Trump nominee Barry Myers and his brothers, stuck with that conclusion after further investigating how the alert was disseminated.

 

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

According to AccuWeather, one element of the coding indicated it was an actual warning, which would mean a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent, expected, or occurring.

AccuWeather said another element of the coding showed the warning was just a test.

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“With such conflicting coding by the NWS, the AccuWeather system defaulted to the interpretation to save lives rather than place lives at risk,” the company’s statement said. “It seems clear the NWS codes were the problem.”

The Weather Channel also listed a tsunami warning on its apps, but did not send a push alert.

Weather.com spokeswoman Katherine Wong said the company’s computers overlooked a field of code that indicated the alert was a test.

“In looking closer at the technical specifications, we’ve identified a better way to identify this type of message in the future,” Wong said. “We are adjusting code for a deeper search of terms in both header and copy code to protect against this situation happening again.”

An unknown number of people received the alert, causing confusion from the Caribbean to Maine.

The National Weather Service said the test warning was not sent out on any of its channels used to communicate with the public and, after further investigation, found it was issued correctly.

“We are working with private sector companies to determine why some systems did not recognize the coding,” the NWS said. “Private sector partners perform a valuable service in disseminating warnings to the public.”

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