This Is Only a Test

So, this morning, I’m having my coffee, catching up on the Snarkosphere, etc., when I notice an alert on my iPhone screen:

Never heard of a tsunami hitting the west coast of Florida, but shit, the world quit making sense a while back, so maybe? I clicked through to the Accuweather app, which had the little red exclamation point and the same message on the app screen: tsunami warning for my (low-lying, coastal) area.

I mentally reviewed the location of my husband and daughter (higher ground, both, insofar as there IS higher ground on this accursed peninsula) and started figuring out how to single-handedly catch and crate the chickens and then drag the dog and a crate of chickens up to the roof. Or perhaps chance fleeing in my car with the dog and chickens in the cabin with me? Neither seemed a good option.

But before putting either plan into action, I figured I’d better go straight to the horse’s mouth and make sure this warning wasn’t some Accuweather fuckery and that the U.S. National Weather Service was really predicting a tsunami right here in Cockroach Acres. Turns out, nah:

I appreciate getting severe weather alerts when an actual threat exists, just as I’m sure the folks in Hawaii are glad there’s a way to alert them of incoming ballistic missiles. But maybe we need to take a step back and rethink how these alerts are disseminated.

In Hawaii, perhaps it shouldn’t be possible for one person to fuck up and push the wrong button and send the population into a panic. And maybe the National Weather Service should work more closely with the weather apps that are authorized to push NWS alerts to make sure “this is a test” is part of the alert message when testing the system. Just saying.

Open thread!

56 replies
  1. 1
    germy says:

    In Hawaii, perhaps it shouldn’t be possible for one person to fuck up and push the wrong button and send the population into a panic.

    And the poor bastard has been getting death threats. He’s lost weight and can’t sleep.

    He did a TV interview and they blurred his face and distorted his voice.

    But didn’t he think he was pushing the correct button? Because now he says he thought there was an actual threat.

  2. 2
    cope says:

    I hope you didn’t do a coffee spit-take when you read it.

  3. 3
    NotMax says:

    Tide comes in, tide goes out. Nobody can explain it.


  4. 4
    Bookeater (formerly JosieJ) says:

    And maybe the National Weather Service should work more closely with the weather apps that are authorized to push NWS alerts to make sure “this is a test” is part of the alert message when testing the system.

    Considering that trump and his merry band of thieves and vandals don’t see the need to fund the NWS and want to outsource its functions to (wait for it)…Accuweather—I don’t see that happening.

  5. 5

    @NotMax: Gravity can explain that.

  6. 6
    dmsilev says:

    I get emails (emphasis added…)

    So far in physics, nobody has been able to explain what ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Dark Energy’ is. I have defined and explained ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Dark Energy,’ one of the most famous, and most embarrassing, problems in physics so far. I have refined Newton and Einstein’s concepts of Gravity and also Higgs Boson which was declared as a ‘God Particle,’ by the Standard Model of Physics. The Super-Standard Model is the only theory that encompasses Quantum Mechanics as well as Relativity and eventually describes all forces and particles – the ultimate goal of physics.

    I have written letters for about 40 countries to the Presidents of US, Germany and to the Prime Ministers of India, Australia, China, UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Russia etc. regarding my recent research developments. I have received acknowledgements from US, India, Australia, Japan and a few more countries.

    Expect a TrumpTweet about how he’s smarter than Einstein Real Soon Now…

  7. 7
    Catherine D. says:

    Well, actually, a decent earthquake off Veracruz could mess up the gulf. But yes, they really should make sure the test bit gets into the alert!

    Do the apps send regular tests? My NOAA radio blares every Wednesday at 11 am.

  8. 8
    low-tech cyclist says:

    I’m gonna have to find out whether my Plant City in-laws got any alerts on their phones. The town’s over 100 feet above sea level, so it would take quite the tsunami to wash up that high.

  9. 9
    Betty Cracker says:

    @germy: He says he thought the alert was real, even though several colleagues in the same room knew it was a drill. Story doesn’t add up to me. Regardless, it’s probably a good idea for more than one person to be involved in sending such an alert.

  10. 10
    NotMax says:

    @schrodinger’s cat

    Oh, come on. Surely you haven’t forgotten Bill O’Reilly using that as an argument?

    Give your snark-on-meter a few sharp taps, it may be struck in neutral.

  11. 11
    dmsilev says:

    Looks like NWS had “this is a drill” correctly, and you should be blaming Accuweather (a private company) for stripping that part out.

  12. 12
    japa21 says:

    As somebody tweeted out:

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the Dow Jones: “The President barely knew him. He was a low level staffer for a few weeks. He did McDonalds runs. I’m sure Americans have more to worry about than Dow Jones.”

  13. 13
    NotMax says:


    No edit function.


  14. 14
    Betty Cracker says:

    @low-tech cyclist: I’m only 9 feet above sea level, so I wouldn’t want to hang around for a tsunami. From what I’ve read on Twitter, people in South Carolina also received the alert.

  15. 15
    chris says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Gravity is just a theory!!1!
    Now hold my beer…

  16. 16
    Roger Moore says:

    In Hawaii, perhaps it shouldn’t be possible for one person to fuck up and push the wrong button and send the population into a panic.

    It seems to me that in the event of a drill, especially one like this intended to determine transmission times, all the messages should be composed in advance to make it absolutely clear that the thing is a drill. Or you could have a “drill mode” switch somewhere that automatically attaches “Drill Drill Drill” to the front of every message during scheduled drills.

    Here in California, we have regular earthquake drills, and they do several good things around them. The big one is that they announce when the big day is well in advance, both to let everyone know why their emergency response people are doing funny things that day and to encourage everyone to participate. And, obviously, just having regular drills is a good idea because it gives everyone practice.

  17. 17
    diierent-church-lady says:

    This is why the first thing I do when I get a new device is to deactivate every automatic alert thingy I can.

    This is also why I’ll be the first one to die in the tsunami.

  18. 18
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @germy: neighbor to lawyer: your dog bit me!

    Lawyer to neighbor:

    1. That’s not my dog
    2. My dog doesn’t bite.
    3. I don’t have a dog.

  19. 19
    El Caganer says:

    @Betty Cracker: I checked Accuweather this a.m. here in Bradenton and didn’t see anything about this; just checked again after reading your post and saw an item saying there had been a tsunami test alert in “U.S., Tampa Bay.” I was not aware that Tampa Bay was not part of the U.S. I don’t know what that makes Bradenton.

  20. 20
    danielx says:

    Had bad, bad back issues a couple of weeks back (yeah, I know). Feeling much better, cut way back on painkillers, etc. Feeling pretty good until I got the results of lower lumbar MRI yesterday morning, which say I have not one but two herniated disks (L2 and L3) and spinal stenosis. Primary care doc says I need to see a neurosurgeon, etc etc….


    How can I be feeling so much better if my condition is that bad?

  21. 21
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Betty Cracker: I’m on a flight to fort laudedale. Do you know if the tsunami is going to hit the east coast too?

  22. 22
    Это курам на смех says:

    I am an Emergency Response Team member for my 18 story federal building.

    Each year we have at least one fire drill or earthquake drill or active shooter drill and each is started with “drill drill this is only a drill.” It’s not that hard.

  23. 23
    Mathguy says:

    @dmsilev: I love getting those emails. I somehow got on some crazy’s email list (a danger for a department chair) who put together an elaborate web site illustrating all of his “work” on geocentrism. Highly entertaining.

  24. 24
    NotMax says:

    Z on TCM at 3:45 p.m. Eastern time today.

    A film firmly ensconced on the ‘cannot not watch when it’s on’ list.

  25. 25
    Mike in DC says:

    Victor von Doom, M.D., Ph.D”

  26. 26
    Amir Khalid says:

    It’s your spine lying in wait to ambush you. You’ll have to outsmart it and show it who’s boss. Good luck at the neurosurgeon’s.

  27. 27
    JCJ says:


    When I was in college at Purdue (’79 – ’84) there was a guy who called himself Dow Jones and he had a punk band called Dow Jones and the Industrials. He ran for student body president and after winning declared war on the University of Wisconsin. Many plastic pink flamingos were exchanged in battle. Only time I ever cared to vote for student body president if only to keep some fraternity bro from trying to polish his turd of a résumé.

  28. 28
    Amir Khalid says:

    Donald Trump is the guy who argues,”My uncle was a scientist, therefore I am a genius.” He’s probably looking to put this person in charge of something important.

  29. 29
    MomSense says:

    I had two warnings on my phone this morning – a Winter Storm and a Tsunami. I checked the tsunami warning first because,with the way this winter has been, I figured it was sort of like the bomb cyclone which gave us a high tide that was 14 feet higher than normal. A tide 14 feet higher than normal is a lot like a tsunami.

  30. 30

    @NotMax: I do remember that. Sometimes playing it straight is snarky too…

  31. 31
    Ben Cisco says:

    @japa21: Seems like just the thing Huckleberry Sound would say.

  32. 32
    gvg says:

    @diierent-church-lady: your name is spelled funny today. Typos I assume. Just for your information in case it’s causing you problems on the blog.

  33. 33
    Fair Economist says:


    How can I be feeling so much better if my condition is that bad?

    Back pain is poorly correlated to the classic physical problems like herniated disks and spinal stenosis. Likewise, fixing these problems surgically is poorly correlated with recovery. Seeing the neurosurgeon to talk is a good idea but you should try conservative therapy first (back exercises and non-opiate pain relievers).

    My great-aunt got surgery for IIRC a slipped disk (due to being overweight). Not only did it not fix the pain, they damaged some nerves and left her incontinent as well. This was long ago, but it’s a reminder that surgery can actually make things worse.

  34. 34
    Doug R says:

    Africa and South America used to be connected. Now there’s the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Think about it.

  35. 35
    Humdog says:

    The guy behind Accuweather wants NWS to give weather data only to companies like Accuweather and have citizens have to pay Accuweather for weather info our taxes already paid for. He wants you, Betty, to not be able to check with NWS to be sure his alert is accurate. He wants you and your menagerie on the roof. Sociopaths everywhere!

  36. 36
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Fair Economist: The other problem is that a neurosurgeon has a direct financial stake in the recommendation. If s/he recommends conservative medical therapy, there is no income stream. If s/he recommends surgery, that’s at least $30k in his/her pocket. [I’m trying to be neutral pronoun-wise, even though I’ve never met a female neurosurgeon.]

  37. 37
    MomSense says:


    Go for the cannabis salve.

  38. 38
    dmsilev says:

    @Mathguy: I chatted once with someone who wrote a General Relativity textbook. He gets lots and lots of crank emails, and keeps a printed collection of the best of them in his office to entertain visitors.

  39. 39
    Paul T says:

    Blame Accuweather, not the Tsunami Warning Center. They Tsunami Test Messages are sent out once a month, since forever.

  40. 40
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @Betty Cracker: 9 feet above sea level? Yipes, you sure wouldn’t want to stick around!

    We live about a half mile from the Chesapeake Bay, but we’re ~90 feet above sea level. The bay’s close enough to enjoy, but we don’t have to worry about storm surges when a hurricane’s headed this way. (Isabel inundated a bunch of bay-front homes here in 2003.) A tree could fall on the house, but that could happen anywhere.

  41. 41
    JCJ says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    [I’m trying to be neutral pronoun-wise, even though I’ve never met a female neurosurgeon.]

    They do exist! Here is one I work with.. Neurosurgery runs in her family – Her dad was a neurosurgeon

  42. 42
    SFAW says:

    @Steve in the ATL:

    I’m on a flight to fort laudedale. Do you know if the tsunami is going to hit the east coast too?

    The FLA-West Coast tsunami will spread to the East Coast like wildfire

  43. 43
    SFAW says:


    This is also why I’ll be the first one to die in the tsunami.

    Except you’re in Nebraska.

  44. 44
    Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    I’ve watched the slow-motion clusterfuck of Florida Republicans under Gov. Bat Boy trying to kneecap medical pot for years, but hadn’t been paying close enough attention to be attuned to the saga of Christian Bax, the nepotism hire with the largely-fictional resume who’s supposed to be in charge of administering the rollout of the the program. Today I saw this, which prompted me to look for more info on Mr. Bax.

    Turns out he’s 32 years old, which makes him not even a grownup by Hobbit reckoning. He was hired right after getting his MBA (from a place that appears to be both pricey and so narrowly focused on business education that I have to suspect its graduates make exceptionally shitty managers), in a process that considered only a single application for the post: his. The applicant search consisted of looking at the resume emailed by his sister (an appointment secretary to Gov. Bat Boy) to one of Bat Boy’s flunkies. The resume seems to consist largely of lies, leavened with a bit of hot air. He seems to have never done anything, really, except go to school. Oh, and also too:

    Bax’s father, James Bax, is a wealthy, long-time Republican political donor whom Scott appointed last year to the Public Employees Relations Commission. Coincidentally, Bax’s father also was the first Secretary of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

    Bax has been so utterly ineffectual that even Republican state legislators are sitting up and taking notice, with one offering a budget amendment to cut off funding for salaries for Fl Department of Health executives until they either light a fire under this guy or get rid of him, or otherwise produce some motion on this program.

    Republican governance at its finest!

  45. 45
    Roger Moore says:

    I’ll have to check with my brother about that. He wrote a textbook on the Standard Model, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got this kind of crank email all the time.

  46. 46
    Miss Bianca says:

    @dmsilev: Is this from that same crazy guy who wrote the one you shared with us last time? Or is this a *different* crazy guy?

  47. 47
    Paul T says:

    @Bookeater (formerly JosieJ): This is what the message looks like. This is entirely on Accuweather.
    WECA41 PHEB 011530

    1530 UTC THU FEB 1 2018


  48. 48
  49. 49
    dmsilev says:

    @Miss Bianca: Different crazy guy. There seems to be an endless supply of them.

  50. 50
    catclub says:


    There seems to be an endless supply of them.

    I thought Einstein said there was an infinite supply of stupidity. Maybe the infinite supply of crazy is a quackized field generalization.

  51. 51
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @Fair Economist: Sign up for some Taoist Tai Chi or Yoga. It will amaze you

  52. 52
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @danielx: Sign up for some Taoist Tai Chi or yoga. Helps a lot. Daughter has 2 dry disks from car accident yoga keeps her pretty much pain free. Tai Chi keeps my sciatica in check.

  53. 53
    SFAW says:


    Different crazy guy. There seems to be an endless supply of them.

    And some of them get elected to Congress, or get installed in the Oval Office.

  54. 54
    Mart says:

    Can not figure out the link on my phone, but if interested in EQ try Googling USGS pga 2% chance of exceedance in 50 years. Surprising how much of the country is exposed. Thanks to fraking, Oklahoma gets brighter colors on the new maps.

  55. 55
    J R in WV says:


    I have pretty bad osteoarthritis. My Dr discourages me from getting xray etc because how I feel is more important that what the radiologist thinks from the images. Kinda makes sense.

    I wouldn’t let them cut on my back unless I was incapacitated from pain and weakness. Success rate is 50%. One good friend had scary surgery on her neck, potential negative side effect on the form was quadriplegia – she said that’s when you know things are real. 100% success.

    Other friend, neighbor, engineer who consults for lawyers suing mining companies, does very well. But is stooped over, moves slowly, had surgery, considering another go at it. He is one of the 50% failure rate victims. Sad.

  56. 56
    lynn says:

    Maybe the state alert systems have been hacked.

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