A tsunami warning buzzed phones across multiple states on Tuesday morning, but it was missing a critical piece of information: This was a test.
The message, issued by the National Weather Service as part of a monthly exercise, was passed along as a real alert, but not by the agency itself, the federal agency said in a statement.
“The test message was released by at least one private sector company as an official Tsunami Warning, resulting in widespread reports of tsunami warnings received via phones and other media across the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean,” the Weather Service said.
The agency added that it was investigating what happened.
Many people who shared the erroneous alerts online received them from AccuWeather, a private weather forecaster based in State College, Pa. They posted screenshots from as far south as Texas to as far north as Maine. In New York, the fear — or perhaps mere bafflement — buzzed from Bushwick, Brooklyn, to the Upper East Side.
AccuWeather set the record straight in a tweet, but the post did not make clear how the error occurred. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The episode on Tuesday was reminiscent of a much higher-profile mistake made just a few weeks ago. On Jan. 13, cellphones across Hawaii received a warning of a “ballistic missile” threat. A state emergency services worker was later blamed for the false alert.