MADISON (WKOW) -- The National Weather Service is apologizing after a tornado warning was issued Monday morning to people throughout southeast Wisconsin and the rest of the state, through email and text alerts on their phones.
The NWS says the alert at 10:28 a.m. Monday was supposed to be a test and was conducted in preparation for the April 18th EAS Tornado Warning drill.
NWS official Jeff Craven says an operator's mistaken computer key stroke turned the warning from a test mode to operational.
Craven says there are software safeguards against such a mistake. But he says they were circumvented, so this internal, warning test could deviate from protocol to make sure weather radios are capable of receiving the warning. Weather radios did not receive the false warning.
In a statement, the NWS said, "The intent was to issue a test tornado warning. The wording in the warning and in the public information statement issued at 8:13 a.m. indicated that it was a test tornado warning. Unfortunately, we issued this warning with a vtec code of O for operational instead of T for text. The warning did not go to NOAA Weather Radio, but it did go out as a live tornado warning through most of the digital vendor services. There was no threat of a tornado, and we apologize for the confusion and inconvenience that this caused."
WKOW-TV had nothing to do with the alert being sent out. But that did not stop a flood of phone calls, emails, text messages, and Facebook posts to us, and other media outlets, as confused and frustrated people sought explanations.
On our Facebook page, Marisa Lynn Riedel of Sauk City wrote she "...went into my basement," as the false warning urged people to take cover.
While precautions taken as a result of the warning were understandable, 27 News Chief Meteorologist Bob Lindmeier says weather conditions made a tornado only a remote possibility, with cold temperatures and no thunderstorm activity close enough to the ground to lead to a tornado.
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