NH - False Weather Warning Frustrates TV Masters Golf Viewers, Computer Cable Problemgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
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April 11, 2000 Title: TV Error Caused by Chain of Events
Cable outfit, weather service apologize for raining on golf fans final round of Masters
By JILLIAN SAFER Telegraph Staff
NASHUA Curious events combined to create the false weather warning that interrupted programming for local cable viewers for almost an hour Sunday night, including critical moments of the Masters golf tournament.
First, at about 6:15 p.m., the National Weather Service sent a message to broadcasters that erroneously extended a real flash flood warning for Somerset County, Maine, to all of New Hampshire.
Then, a computer at the cable company MediaOne froze, extending that warning from a typical two-minute break to an aggravating hour-long interruption that pre-empted programming on every channel.
Golf lovers who were anxiously waiting to see if Vijay Singh would maintain his two-stroke lead with two holes to go in the Masters tournament were irate to find their view of the greens in Augusta, Ga., suddenly replaced by the seemingly endless warning.
Speaking to a reporter, spokespersons for the weather service and cable company apologized for the inconvenience to viewers.
John Jensenius, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray, Maine, said that the office received new computer equipment there last week that operators havent mastered.
"We are truly sorry for all those people whose programs we interrupted," he said.
Jennifer Khoury, a spokeswoman for MediaOne, said that Sundays computer error was very unusual as the company tests its Emergency Alert System equipment regularly. "Its something that you feel terrible about," she said.
"Were obviously disappointed the customer had to miss part of an important golf tournament, but at the same time, its a system thats designed to protect people," she said.
The Emergency Alert System, or EAS, is intended to quickly notify the public about situations such as toxic chemical spills, evacuations and other civil emergencies, said Ed Bruder, chairman of state Emergency Communications Committee.
In New Hampshire, announcements come from the state Office of Emergency Management, the New Hampshire State Police, and the National Weather Service and are distributed through a daisy chain of radio and television stations.
Aside from mandatory national warnings, broadcasters can pick and choose which alerts they broadcast by programming their equipment to pick up alerts that contain specific event and location codes.
Khoury said the cable company has tried to minimize the amount of interruptions by programming equipment so that it only picks up warnings of sudden events in this area that they feel people would not otherwise be aware of.
For example, while they do run warnings of tornadoes and flash floods and other sudden unexpected dangers, they dont broadcast alerts for blizzards or hurricanes that are typically predicted and reported by news programs in advance.
While some callers to The Telegraph said they were unable to reach anyone at the company to complain about the programming disruption Sunday night, Khoury said that caller complaints alerted the company to the problem.
A technician was brought in Sunday night and, after a time, he was able to restore programming, said Khoury. She did not know how many complaints came in.
Khoury said customers can reach someone at the company 24 hours a day, seven days a week and gave three numbers for customers to try in case of problems.
The regional number for MediaOne in New Hamsphire is 1-888-MediaOne (1-888-633-4266.) There are also two Nashua-specific numbers, 889-6694 during normal business hours, and 889-7715 for after-hours emergencies.
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), April 11, 2000