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Amber Alert Text Message: Startling Sound Causes Mass Surprise & Confusion— and Tons of Tweets!

Amber Alert

Wait, what was that?!

Californians weren't sure whether to stop, drop and roll, evacuate the premises or prepare for a zombie apocalypse last night when an Amber Alert was sent out wide to cellphones via text message for the first time since the system went into effect on Jan. 1.

The text message—which was sent out statewide to all phones that could be "pinged" by a California cell phone tower (out-of-state numbers were no exception) to warn people of a possible child abduction—was accompanied by 10 seconds of test-of-the-emergency-broadcast-system-reminiscent loud screeching and static, startling pretty much everyone who had their ringers turned on.

And we know how widespread the confusion was because plenty of folks (including some celebs) took to Twitter to discuss. Here's a sampling:

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@FuzzFanTab: "Damn Amber Alert on my iPhone scared the hell out me."

@MegTurney: "New irrational fear: the sound the iPhone makes during an Amber Alert. ."

@rubbeelove_: "That amber alert scared the beejesus outta me! I had my sound on loud, my heart's still racing..."

@nickygeezy: "Good thing that Amber alert didn't just scare the hell outta me :|"

@DamianMcGinty: "That Amber Alert in California most definitely just scared me a little. Wont lie."

@TTLYTEALA: "Not gonna lie the ring of the amber alert scared me half to death."

@AshleyMGreene: "it's great that there is an amber alert option on my iPhone- I just wish I'd been pre warned. Was not ready for that sound this AM."

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Amber Alert, James Lee DiMaggio

Of course, despite the initial shock that was then followed by relief and maybe a chuckle for freaking out over a text message ringtone, the Amber Alert was no false alarm.

Officials issued the alert for two children allegedly kidnapped in eastern San Diego County after the body of their mother and another child were found in their burned-down home on Sunday. Police say that they suspect 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio abducted Hannah Anderson, 16, and Ethan Anderson, 8 and is on the run, possibly headed for Texas or Canada, driving a blue Nissan Versa.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the homicide detail at (858) 974-2321 or (858) 565-5200, or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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The Amber Alert program was created in 1996 in honor of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered near her home in Arlington, Texas. The Amber Alert text message system went into effect Jan 1.

Cellphone owners now receive messages automatically, based on their proximity to the emergency, not their phone number.

"If you're from Texas and that's where your phone number is based and you're traveling in California at the time of the Amber Alert, you'll receive the text message about the Amber Alert in California on your Texas-based phone," said CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader.

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