By Melissa Chan
January 23, 2018

An “outage” prevented the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which is tasked with warning Americans about dangerous weather conditions, from providing any new information on its website or main social media account early Tuesday as an earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska triggered tsunami warnings down the East Coast, officials said.

Susan Buchanan, the acting director of public affairs at NOAA’s National Weather Service, said the website “experienced an outage due to a heavy load on the servers” early Tuesday after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck off Alaska’s Kodiak Island, prompting officials to issue tsunami warnings that have since been canceled in at least Hawaii.

“We are in the process of increasing bandwidth for this site this morning by dedicating 10 additional servers,” she said.

Buchanan said the agency’s operational units, including the tsunami warning centers in Alaska and Hawaii, have been operational and that NOAA’s website and social media accounts were being maintained by staff despite the recent government shutdown. President Donald Trump signed a bill to reopen the government late Monday, allowing impacted federal employees to return to work Tuesday.

But as of Tuesday morning, there was still a banner message at the top of NOAA’s website that said the site will “not be updated” due to the government shutdown. The last post on the agency’s Twitter account read: “During the federal government shutdown, we will not monitor or update social media.” The messages were still up as of 8 a.m. (E.T.)

NOAA’s National Weather Service in Honolulu, Hawaii did appear to update residents on its separate Twitter account.

The U.S. Geological Survey, another government agency tasked with studying natural hazards, also issued at least three tweets and published information on its website about the earthquake. USGS spokeswoman A.B. Wade told TIME the shutdown had already ended by the time the earthquake hit, so it did not hinder the agency’s ability to disperse information early Tuesday.

“Our contingency plan, even if the shutdown was continuing, allows for staff to remain on call for issues that involve public safety,” Wade said. “We always had in place staff to continue to monitor. It’s unfortunate that NOOA’s [website] didn’t get updated, but we’re lucky that we did.”

 

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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