Hawaii officials mistakenly warn of inbound missile, causing panic throughout island

A push notification that was accidentally sent to Hawaii residents Saturday morning. Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 13, 2018 | Background photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons licensed cc-by 2.0 by dronepic, Test message picture by Caleb Jones, Associated Press, St. George News

HONOLULU (AP) — A push alert that warned of a ballistic missile heading straight for Hawaii and sent residents into a full-blown panic Saturday was a mistake, state emergency officials said.

The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones shortly after 8 a.m, said in all caps, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Richard Repoza said it was a false alarm and the agency is trying to determine what happened.

The incident prompted defense agencies including the Pentagon and the U.S. Pacific Command to issue the same statement, that they had “detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii.”

Michael Kucharek, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command are still trying to verify what happened in Hawaii — but that “NORAD did not see anything that indicated any sort of threat to Hawaii.

“From a NORAD perspective and that of the U.S. Northern Command, we are still trying to verify what happened,” he said of the false alert.

NORAD is a U.S.-Canada joint command that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning to defend North America. The U.S. Northern Command, also based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is tasked with air, land and sea defense of the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and portions of the Caribbean.

The alert caused a tizzy on the island and across social media.

At the PGA Tour event on Oahu, Waialae Country Club was largely empty and players were still a few hours from arriving. The tournament staff urged the media center to evacuate. “This is not a drill,” said Candice Kraughto, who runs the press operations for the Sony Open.

A local radio show from the clubhouse, next to glass windows that overlook the Pacific, kept broadcasting. Staff members at the club streamed into the clubhouse and tried to seek cover in the locker room, which was filled with the players’ golf bags, but instead went into the kitchen.

Several players took to Twitter.

“Just woke up here in Hawaii to this lovely text. Somebody can verify this?” tweeted Emiliano Grillo of Argentina.

Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour player of the year, tweeted, “To all that just received the warning along with me this morning … apparently it was a ‘mistake’?? hell of a mistake!! Haha glad to know we’ll all be safe.”

Jaime Malapit, owner of a Honolulu hair salon, texted his clients that he was cancelling their appointments and was closing his shop for the day. He said he was still in bed when the phone started going off “like crazy.” He thought it was a tsunami warning at first.

“I woke up and saw missile warning and thought no way. I thought ‘No, this is not happening today,'” Malapit said.

He was still “a little freaked out” and feeling paranoid even after hearing it was a false alarm.

Richard Ing, a Honolulu attorney, was doing a construction project at home when his wife told him about the alert.

He dug his phone out and confirmed he had the same alert. Attempts to find out more on the television or radio didn’t provide further information, but then he saw on Twitter that it was a false alarm.

While he was trying to confirm, his wife and children were preparing to evacuate in case they needed to move to safer ground.

After finding out it was a mistake, Ing tried to find some humor in the situation.

“I thought to myself, it must be someone’s last day at work or someone got extremely upset at a superior and basically did this as a practical joke,’ he said. “But I think it’s a very serious problem if it wasn’t that, or even it was, it shows that we have problems in the system that can cause major disruption and panic and anxiety among people in Hawaii.

Some were outraged that such an alert could go out in error.

Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was “totally inexcusable” and was caused by human error.

“There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” he wrote.

Written by AUDREY McAVOY and JENNIFER KELLEHER. Associated Press writers Caleb Jones in Honolulu, Doug Ferguson in Maui, Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Jim Anderson in Denver and Tom Strong in Washington contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • ladybugavenger January 13, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Very terrorizing.

    Who else thinks it was done on purpose, or should I say, with a purpose to distract from the Trump s***hole comment? Or perhaps a distraction from the Clinton investigation?

    By the way, if Trump do d say s***hole countries, I don’t find it racist. My gosh, this country was becoming a s***hole country with Obama in charge. Only hope, is to close borders, build a wall, then work on the little children who’s parents brought them over illegally and give them a path to citizenship.
    I don’t think we should send them back to Mexico. Where would they go? How would they eat? They may get killed going back. But, we need secured borders before they can become legal working citizens and pay taxes like everyone else. Deport the criminals (other than the crime of being here illegally) We have enough american citizen criminals.

    Then we need a livable wage for all workers. Geeeze, some McDonald’s workers make more than I do. And i work for a company that makes billions of dollars in profit and pays themselves billions of dollars a year…..share the wealth! I make you money. I mean I could make people not buy from them…hmmmmmm wonder if they ever think of that. I love the people i work with tho. If it wasn’t for them, there would be no purpose there…Good thing for my husband (whos a man lol) bringing home more on disbality than i do working 40 plus hours a week. Gotta love America!

    God bless y’all

    • comments January 13, 2018 at 6:33 pm

      Haiti is a ****hole. I don’t know if you can sugarcoat that. it is what it is. Most of africa is a ****hole. heck, all of the 3rd world is basically a ****hole. “developing countries” is the nice pc way to say ****hole. Looks mods I precensored it for you 😉

  • ladybugavenger January 13, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Lets see. When i started working at 15 and 1/2 when I got my littler workers permit, minimum wage was $3.35. Here we are 32 yrs later and minimum wage is $7.25. Less than $4.00 an hour increase in 32 years. Yet, cost of living has gone up. How much? b&f probably knows. But let’s say my mom’s house was worth $80,000 in 1985 and in the year 2016, that same house sold for $555,000. They are renting it out for $3,000 a month. That is a $475,000 increase in value in 32 years, but minimum wage is at a $8,320 increase based on a 40 hour week at a$4 increase in minimum wage. My mom worked for the state of California yes, a government job. Prior to that, she worked for the federal government. Thats 40 years of government work. She made as much as i do now every month. But, cost of living was cheaper. The baby boomers complain that my generation should be able to get by on our wage but they forget that the cost of housing, water, electricity, food, and gas has increased a significant amount higher than our wages. They coiuld not start a family and buy a house if they had to start over from the beginning in these times with the wages we make.

    You say go to college and get a higher paying job. I went to college, I got a degree, only to find out there were no jobs willing to take a risk on me. No one willing to hire me. Then, I found out how corrupt the legal fierld is and i didn’t want to be a part of destroying lives. My choice, to exit out of that field. Which worked out perdect since i didnt find a job in that field 🙂
    The only reason I own a home is because my mom died and my sister and I split the money. My mom’s last words to me were “I want you to buy a house” which was perfectt because I wanted to buy a house too. And guess where I had to go too afford a house? You got it…oklahoma! I couldnt find one in st George for $180,000 cash that wasnt HOA. Plus my house is bigger and i bought it for $155,000 cash.

    The people from California should move to a suburb of tulsa. More bang for their buck. Four seasons. And it only snows a tiny bit that doesnt stay on the ground,for long.

    I only bring this up because I worry about my children. When I die, they get my house and they can sell it, split it, and buy their own houses. But until then, is there hope for their financial future? My only hope is the economy getting better, and better paying jobs to be able to afford the outrageous cost of living. (By the way, i would love them to move in with me lol but that doesnt seem to be happening haha)

    • comments January 13, 2018 at 6:36 pm


      The economy is rigged in this country LBA. Actual wages have gone waaaaaaayyyyyyy down since the 1970s. It’s a race to the bottom.

  • ladybugavenger January 13, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    To give you another perspective. My mom and dad bought this house in Orange County, ca. In 1970 for $40,000. They got divorced in 1978. My mom got the house and kids. She had a second mortgage on the house and paid the house off in the year 2000. Her monthly payments were $400 and remember she made the same wage that I I do right now. But for me to buy her house would be $555.000 or 3,000 a month rent. Never happen making the same wage.

    In 2016, that same house was sold for $555.000.

    In 1978 my dad bought a house for $100,000 that house now in 2018 appraised for 850.000. He made in the 80’s $100,000 a year. That income did not increase much over the years then he retired a few years ago.

    My point is, y’all need to put things in perspective, my generation went through an astronomic increase in the cost of living and wages didn’t change. My parents, much like other baby boomers couldnt understand our financial struggles. I remember my step mom telling me, we don’t spend that much a month. I had to roll my eyes because she wasnt paying $800 a month in rent plus utilities…..She was sitting in her paid off $2500 sq ft 2 story house…..the gap between what the baby boomers experienced andx what wd experienced is not to be compared……the struggle is real people.

    Need a livable wage! Cost of living too high!

    • comments January 13, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      pay vs cost of living is s*** in most of this country. Most of the economic wealth of this country is shifted to the 1%. Didn’t used to be that way. Prob why 1/2 of millenials live w/ mommy and daddy still. You flat out can barely make it with entry-level jobs.

  • Keith January 13, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Well here is a thought.
    Could it be that sawed off runt Korean dictator. Has his army of IT nerds hacked the system?
    1. It did caue wide spread terror, panic and confusing.
    2. If repeated it would cuse apathy and residents would no longer react accordingly to further alerts. (the boy who cried wolf)
    3. If he were to realy lunch an missile attack after repeated flase alerts, the loss of life and destruction would be sever.

    • CPitch January 13, 2018 at 9:15 pm

      Keith: really good points! Also, North Korea has been doing so dang many missile tests. I wonder if intelligence officials actually expected something to happen today and some guy had his ‘finger on the emergency alert button’ and accidentally pushed it prematurely.

  • commonsense January 13, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    The state of Hawaii is run by Democrats so blame them, it was a state employee who screwed up. Incidentally Hawaii is the biggest abuser of federal welfare, even more than California.

  • utahdiablo January 13, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Well if the Missiles were really coming into Hawaii, you might as well light up some pot and watch the light show, where else you gonna go?

  • Caveat_Emptor January 14, 2018 at 10:05 am

    The good news from this mistaken alert was the identification of numerous gaps in their process. The notification system appears to work, even though it was set off in error, but the response to the notice could be described as “confusion”. Let’s hope the emergency managers figure out a better communication and response plan, in the mold of civil defense drills. Hawaii already has a Tsunami warning system to protect folks in low lying areas.
    A significant challenge will be to educate a huge numbers of transient visitors staying in hotels, etc.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.