Hawaii missile scare 'very surreal,' says vacationing Saskatoon man

Jordan Hamilton got a scare along with his morning coffee in the Paradise of the Pacific on Saturday. He was vacationing with his family in Kona, Hawaii, when the entire state received an emergency missile alert — that turned out to be a false alarm.

False ballistic missile alert sent to cellphones caused widespread panic in Hawaii Saturday

Jordan Hamilton of Saskatoon was vacationing in Hawaii when a false alert about an incoming missile was sent to cellphone users in the state. (Ron Kosen/photospectrumkauai.com/AP)

Jordan Hamilton got a scare along with his morning coffee in the Paradise of the Pacific on Saturday.

The Saskatoon man was vacationing with his family in Hawaii's Kona district when an emergency alert warning of an incoming missile was sent out by state officials to cellphones, causing panic before it was discovered it was a false alarm.

"We were all just relaxing having coffee and phones started going off with loud alarms," Hamilton said. "You could hear the outdoor alarms as well when you went outside."

The emergency alert sent to cellphones said in all caps, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

Hamilton was with his wife, his sister and her family, and his mother and her partner at the time. Everyone with a cellphone received the alert.

His first reaction, he said, was "shock and awe."

"It's very surreal, and you start to question whether this is actually happening or not. Then you accept that it is, and grab your passport and put it in your pocket and be ready for what comes next."

Panic in the streets

Outside their rented Airbnb property, which overlooks the water, they saw people leaving the beaches and running down the streets, and cars flying by at high speeds as everyone rushed to get somewhere safe.

It was about 15 minutes before Hamilton and his family found comments on Twitter that suggested it was a false alarm, and 38 minutes before they got official word that there was no missile.

"Once we got the all clear, I think everyone took a deep breath and went back to their daily routine, more or less."

He and his family are heading back to Saskatoon on Sunday, but they endeavoured to make the best of their last day on the island in spite of the scare.

"We're hoping we can beat everyone else back to the beach."

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern

Ashleigh Mattern is a web writer and reporter with CBC Saskatoon, and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca

With files from The Associated Press