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AccuWeather vs. National Weather Service over tsunami warning

Some people on the East Coast got an

Some people on the East Coast got an alert on their phones Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, about a tsunami warning, but the National Weather Service says it was just a test. Credit: AP

While Tuesday morning brought no real threat of a tsunami for the East Coast, a routine test did give rise to some finger pointing between the National Weather Service and AccuWeather, a private forecasting company.

The weather service said it was looking into how a routine test message issued around 8:30 a.m. by its National Tsunami Warning Center came to be released as an official tsunami warning by at least one private sector company, which it did not name.

That led to reports of tsunami warnings being received by phones and other media by those in the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, according to a weather service statement.

“There is no tsunami threat,” the weather service said, and it did not disseminate the test message to the public.

At close to 12:30 p.m., AccuWeather, which had passed a warning along, said that, while the weather service’s test message was clearly labeled a test, it was miscoded as a real warning.

The company “has sophisticated algorithms to scan the entire message, not just header words, as from the time of a warning to the actual event can be mere minutes,” the AccuWeather statement said.

But the weather service said an investigation into “this routine monthly tsunami test message confirmed that it was coded as a test message.”

In a statement, it said in it is working with private sector companies “to determine why some systems did not recognize the coding,” adding that it will work with its partners “to prevent this from occurring again.”

The Washington Post reviewed the alerts sent by the weather service and an article written Tuesday by Angela Fritz, an atmospheric scientist with a degree in meteorology, said: “All of them were coded with a “T” at the beginning, which indicates it is a test,” with archives showing that previous tests used “the same type of coding.”

Barry Myers, AccuWeather’s chief executive, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the weather service.

The Post has reported that Myers “has been a determined force behind efforts to persuade Congress to curb free initiatives” by the weather service “that overlap with services provided by AccuWeather and other private firms, while at the same time pressing the government to give AccuWeather expanded access to weather-related data.”

Myers has also indicated, the Post reported, that the weather service should stick with “core services such as data collection and modeling,” with forecasting already being handled by the “weather industry,” of which AccuWeather is a part.

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