Confusing 'tsunami warning' alert sent to major cities

Discussion in 'Weather In The News' started by Randy Jennings, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. Randy Jennings

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    If you got a tsunami warning on your mobile device Tuesday morning, don't panic: It was only a test.

    A tsunami warning test message was issued by the National Weather Service Tuesday morning to several major cities in the U.S, including Houston, Tampa, and New York.

    The alert appeared as a notification that read as a tsunami warning, but did not indicate that it was a test unless it was opened, leaving people confused.

    Full story at http://www.wfaa.com/news/nation-world/confusing-tsumami-warning-alert-sent-to-major-cities/515206890

    Problem seems to be the way apps displayed the alerts, as the warning text did clearly say it was a test.
     
  2. Marc R. O'Leary

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    A lot of "cry wolf" happening lately. Be it accidental or interpretive, people are going to start ignoring warnings if the systems can't be corrected to be interpreted/distributed by the lowest common denominator.
     
  3. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Resident meteorological expert
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    Definitely a highly visible event given it followed the false missile warning in Hawaii so closely, and some pretty bad PR and bad timing, but I'd hardly consider this "a lot of cry wolf". I would think a sensible person would be able to see this as an isolated incident and not use it as an excuse to ignore future warnings (provided these don't start to become commonplace). It's rather unlikely that anyone who got falsely warned in Hawaii also got falsely warned about an east coast tsunami, so each case has been more like just one false alarm total rather than two. I have personally been impacted by zero false alarms recently, as have millions of others in the US.

    Now, I would argue that the person who is responsible for this should face some kind of punishment, because this is still a pretty big mistake. But this shouldn't spoil tsunami warnings in general.
     
  4. rdale

    rdale EF5

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    There is no "person" unfortunately.

    The NWS has a bug in the VTEC code where the tracking numbers get repeated. Last month the Tsunami Warning was issued as the 3rd event of the year (first two were tests.)

    This test was also issued as Event #3, which is a bug.

    AccuWeather uses the event code to track events, so knowing that #3 was a real warning - they transmitted it as a real warning. Even though it was coded as a test, had test clearly throughout the warning, and was not real.

    The root cause is the NWS bug. They've known about it for months and the issues it's caused but have not fixed it. AW deserves a little bit of the blame since they didn't ignore a clear test message, but the root cause is still NWS.
     
  5. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Resident meteorological expert
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    Thank you for clarifying, Rob! Still seems like a bit of a problem down the line. Someone made the call not to have the bug fixed.
     
  6. Marc R. O'Leary

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    I meant "cry wolf" not in a local sense, but more in that these stories get big deal national attention. Way more attention that an actual proper warning would ever get. People in our fast paced social media society will get dulled to these false warnings, and instead of taking cover or seeking high ground, they'll just head over to twitter to see if it's "real"...meanwhile there might actually be a ballistic missile laden tsunami headed their way.
     
  7. Randy Jennings

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    I looks the VTEC stuff was designed and implemented between 2004 and 2008. Twitter didn't come around until 2006 and most - if not all - of these apps folks are using today didn't exist back then. NWS's VTEC page says "VTEC will help allow automated dissemination of critical weather information through technologies such as paging systems and television message crawl systems." It is entirely possible that the use case of displaying the warning header without the text (or character limiting it aka twitter style) was never considered. Of course the app developers probably never expected the use case of NWS sending a real warning with text that said - this is a test. The app providers probably expected one of the test messages. I'm sure both sides have lesson's learned on this one.
     
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  8. rdale

    rdale EF5

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    Marc - I'm not sure this got way more news than a real tsunami hitting the Eastern US would get :)
     

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