Weather Blog

Cell phones lighting up with erroneous Flash Flood alerts

Cell phones lighting up with erroneous Flash Flood alerts

SEATTLE -- Some cell phones around the Puget Sound region were urgently alerting their users to a flash flood warning Wednesday afternoon. But don't worry, the alert was not for the Puget Sound region.

The ominous advisory read:

"Flash Flood Warning this area til 6:00 PM AST. Avoid flood areas. Check local media -NWS Type: Imminent severe alert."

The clue is "AST" -- Atlantic Standard Time, which is one time zone east of Eastern Time, and covers much of the Caribbean Islands. Sure enough, there was a Flash Flood Warning in effect for parts of Puerto Rico until 6 p.m. AST, and as an American territory, Puerto Rico is covered by the National Weather Service.

Here is a snippet of that warning, which seems to match the time zone (hopefully your Spanish is up to par:)



So far, we've only received reports from people using T-Mobile phones but that's not to say it didn't appear on others. A T-Mobile spokesman told KOMO News they are just a conduit for the National Weather Service alert system and not all T-Mobile customers received the alert. Their engineers are looking into it.

Meanwhile, the Seattle office of the National Weather Service also confirmed the alerts are not originating from their office. So the source is still an official mystery.

But while brief bursts of rain are possible around the Puget Sound region Wednesday evening, there were no local flash flood warnings. We're going to assume it was some sort of coding error that brought the alert to the Puget Sound region.