Cellphoner users in Tacoma get flash flood warning

by: Alison Grande Updated:

TACOMA, Wash. - Tacoma cell phone users got an emergency alert warning them about a flash flood.  The emergency text messages are meant to save lives, but they’re going to the wrong people

Wednesday’s flash flood message was supposed to be for phone users in Puerto Rico.

 Cheri Gibbons got the message at 1:41pm at work.

“I looked out the window and thought there’s no clouds that could cause a flash flood. I just thought it was bogus and ignored it,” Gibbons said.

Nathan Kaczmarek got it to.

He read it out loud,  “imminent severe alert.  Flash Flood warning in the area until 6pm.  Avoid flood areas.  Check local media.”

“In Washington, we don’t have flash floods really too often.  So that’s all I could think, what’s going on with this,” Kaczmarek said.

What was going on was a malfunction in the alert system.  

The system is still relatively new, and allows the National Weather Service, the State Patrol, and the President to send messages.

The State Patrol uses it for Amber Alerts.

Last April , the State Patrol sent out an Amber Alert about a missing Montana boy.

The problem was, they sent it at 3:30am, when people were home asleep.

While the State Patrol regretted the time it sent the message, it was glad it was sent.  The boy was found safe in Fife.

Wednesday night, the State Patrol told KIRO 7  if it had it to do over again, that message would have been sent at 7am, when people were on the roads driving.

Cheri Gibbons got that message too, “if they keep showing up like this, where they don’t apply to me, I can see why people would stop paying attention.”

People have the chance to opt out of the weather and Amber alerts, but not out of the messages from the President.

The State Patrol hopes people won’t opt out on their phones.

In December, the National Weather Service sent out a blizzard warning. 

Kaczmarek got it, but he shouldn’t have, it was supposed to be for the Cascades.

It was not intended for Tacoma residents.

The State Patrol says the system is having some growing pains.

Lieutenant Ron Mead told KIRO 7  he really hopes people will have patience with it.  He says it is crucial, especially when it comes to Amber Alerts. 

The National Weather Service credits the system with warning residents in Oklahoma about the recent tornadoes and saving lives.

Gibbons is willing to stick with it, “anytime you roll out a new system, especially something that’s nationwide, you’re going to have hiccups.  Just take it in stride.”