Rhode Islanders receive erroneous tsunami warning

Updated: 12:42 p.m.

NEW ENGLANDERS received an early-morning tsunami warning on Tuesday. The National Weather Service quickly said it was an error. /PBN PHOTO/ELI SHERMAN
NEW ENGLANDERS received an early-morning tsunami warning on Tuesday. The National Weather Service quickly said it was an error. /PBN PHOTO/ELI SHERMAN

PROVIDENCE – A tsunami warning was mistakenly sent out to certain mobile users throughout New England on Tuesday.

The morning warning cited the National Weather Service as the source, and the federal weather agency was quick to announce it was an error.

“We have been receiving reports [of] an erroneous tsunami alert across New England,” NWS Boston tweeted. “Please note there is no tsunami threat for New England.”

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In a statement, the NWS said it sent out the warning as a routine test, which was then reported as an actual warning by at least one private-sector company. The agency said it is looking into why it happened.

AccuWeather Inc. sent out a push notification at 8:30 a.m. citing a tsunami warning./ PBN PHOTO/ ELI SHERMAN
AccuWeather Inc. sent out a push notification at 8:30 a.m. citing a tsunami warning./ PBN PHOTO/ ELI SHERMAN

A tsunami is a large ocean wave typically caused by an undersea earthquake. It can travel hundreds of miles across the open sea.

In Providence, the commercial weather forecasting company AccuWeather Inc. sent out a push notification at 8:30 a.m. saying the tsunami warning would last an hour beginning at 8:28 a.m. It cited the NWS as its source.

The notification further noted, “This message is for test purposes only. This is a test to determine transmission times involved in the dissemination of tsunami information.”

AccuWeather later released a statement saying NWS miscoded its test as a real warning.

“The responsibility is on the NWS to properly and consistently code the messages, for only they know if the message is correct or not,” according to the statement.

AccuWeather said this isn’t the first time NWS has miscoded its tests.

Twitter users were quick to criticize the mishap, comparing it with the alert mistakenly sent to Hawaii residents on Jan. 13, warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack.

 

­Eli Sherman is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Sherman@PBN.com, or follow him on Twitter @Eli_Sherman.