As the city of Madison began to brace for an impending winter storm, some residents woke up to an alert for an unexpected kind of inclement weather Monday.
The National Weather Service accidentally set out a mass tornado warning text and email to the cell phones of South Central and South Eastern Wisconsin residents yesterday.
The tornado warning caused many people to be confused and surprised when they received the message at 10:28 a.m., a statement from the National Weather Service said.
”The intent was to issue a test tornado warning,” the statement said. “There was no threat of a tornado…and we apologize for confusion and inconvenience that this caused.”
The NWS statement said it wanted to issue the test to prepare for a statewide severe weather drill on April 18, but a mistake in coding resulted in the false alarm.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the false warning startled and confused many Madisonians.
“I thought, the blizzard is coming a day early and it’s super strong,” Verveer said. “Then I realized it was an error.”
He said he hopes the mistake does not happen again. He added the extreme weather warnings sent through smart phones is still a relatively new program and this is only the second time the program has been used by the state.
Verveer said the program was criticized in the past when it was used during the winter of 2012 to broadcast a blizzard because many members of the public knew the blizzard was coming, so it was unnecessary to alert everyone through their phone.
It makes sense to use the warning system for an immediate weather event like a tornado, Verveer said, but because of its errors he said he has concerns for the future of the system.
“People will disable the program and not have benefit of it in case of a real emergency,” Verveer said.