False alarm: Inbound ballistic missile warning creates panic in Hawaii

It was a terrifying couple of minutes in the U.S. as an emergency alert was sent out in Hawaii urging citizens to seek shelter from an inbound ballistic missile. It turned out to be a false alarm but WTOP's John Aaron, who is honeymooning on the island, described the scene of panic and fear — and its likely long-lasting effects.

WASHINGTON — An emergency alert in Hawaii that urged citizens to seek shelter from an inbound ballistic missile was a false alarm, according to Representative Tulsi Gabbard.

The alert however caused a lot of alarm and fear on social media and in the state.

WTOP’s John Aaron was in Hawaii on his honeymoon when the alert went out.

“We woke up to quite a scare this morning, an alert in our hotel room over the PA system told us that there was an incoming missile threat, this was not a drill and there was a report of a ballistic missile that was inbound to Hawaii,” Aaron told WTOP just minutes after the alert was declared a false alarm. “Those are never words that I have heard anything remotely like in my life.”

Aaron and his new wife grabbed their phones and clothes and tried to find shelter in a supply closet in their hotel.

“A very chaotic and nerve-racking scene, some people were crying, a lot of people were frantic. I was just trying to find somewhere safe,” Aaron said.

The alarm began when CNN associate producer Amanda Golden tweeted out a screenshot of the alert.

Politico reporter Tim Alberta tweeted that sirens were going off on the island and military personnel were bunkering down.

Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency tweeted that there is no missile threat to Hawaii, prompting questions as to why the alert went out.

Although news of the alarm being false spread quickly, the terrifying effects are likely to last a long time.

“Obviously all of the tension we’ve heard, the bluster between North Korea and the U.S., it really hit home that this would be the effect of that. The possibility of a missile being inbound to Hawaii presumably from North Korea, although no one said that, that possibility does not seem that ridiculous at the moment,” Aaron said.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the false alarm was based on human error and that there is “nothing more important to Hawai’i than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process.”

Schatz added that the error was “inexcusable. The whole state was terrified.”


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