NWS says FEMA’s WEA mistakenly activated, sending tornado alert

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 12:03 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The National Weather Service says an alert system was inadvertently activated Tuesday morning, sending people across the Midwest a tornado warning - but neglecting to note that it was only a test.

The wireless alert went out at 10 a.m., when the NWS in Kansas was conducting its statewide tornado drill as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

NWS Topeka said in a Facebook post that the message sent to cell phones Tuesday morning came from a Federal Emergency Management Agency program called Wireless Emergency Alerts. The alert told Kansans to take shelter from a tornado warning, but did not include that it was a test.

NWS Topeka posted a copy of its message, which stated “TEST MESSAGE” several times. However, they said the content of the messages is controlled by FEMA’s WEA system, and not the local NWS.

In an update, the national NWS office stated, “WEA was unintentionally activated during a test. We have identified the cause and resolved the issue.”

Both the national office and NWS Topeka apologized for the confusion.

The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office said it was inundated with calls Tuesday morning because of the message. It said residents should not call 911 with weather-related questions.

" A test of our tornado warning system today as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week was not intended to be broadcast as a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA),” said a spokesman for the National Weather Service. “The new code for a Common Alerting Protocol  (CAP) Handler, implemented last week, mistakenly allowed the test to go out over WEA as an actual warning. The software was fixed immediately.”

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