The warnings were justified for coastal communities where they prompted evacuations for communities like Homer and Kodiak, but geologists told Alaska Public Media it was unlikely the quake could have generated a large tsunami in Anchorage, about 500 miles northeast of its epicenter.
Dave Snider, the tsunami warning coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the Tsunami Warning Center, said it’s unclear why AT&T customers in Anchorage – and potentially customers of other providers – received the erroneous alerts on Tuesday night.
“I’m very concerned about that, and that would go for any type of alert,” Snider told Alaska Public Media. “If you’re getting a message that doesn’t apply to you, the ‘cry wolf’ issue is certainly alive and present.
Snider added: “And we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to eliminate that and only show you things that matter to you when it matters, because the danger of that is that when it does matter you’ll think it doesn’t and won’t react.”
Snider said the National Weather Service made changes in March to ensure tsunami alerts would not go to Anchorage residents when inappropriate, but that an error occurred in this situation.
Snider said the Tsunami Warning Center, the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and cell phone service providers are trying to determine why the alert was sent.