Incorrect tornado alert mistakenly sent to cellphone customers

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Local residents may have received text alerts on their cellphones Tuesday morning indicating a tornado warning had been issued.

But the warning was intended only as a test as part of a statewide tornado drill, according to Leavenworth County Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha.

Magaha said his office received a number of phone calls and messages from people who received the alert Tuesday.

“Our email blew up,” he said.

Magaha said the messages were sent through what is known as the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

WEA, which was established through federal law, is a public safety alert system resulting from a partnership between Federal Emergency Management Administration, Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry, according to information from the FCC’s website.

The message that was sent to people’s cellphones Tuesday was initiated by the National Weather Service.

Andy Bailey, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, issued a statement Tuesday indicating the office sent out a properly coded test tornado warning.

“Somewhere above us in the Wireless Emergency Alert chain it was misinterpreted and disseminated as an actual warning,” Bailey wrote in a statement. “Our headquarters is investigating a cause.”

Bailey believes the incorrect message was sent out across Kansas and Missouri.

Leavenworth County Emergency Management also sounded outdoor sirens Tuesday as part of the statewide tornado drill. But Emergency Management officials announced ahead of time that the sirens were being activated as a part of a drill.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR