Flock of birds or weather balloon may have caused White House lockdown, officials say

Hayley Fowler, Chacour Koop


The White House was on lockdown Tuesday morning and fighter jets were assembled for a potential airspace violation, but it ended up being a false alarm, officials say.

Turns out, the alert could’ve been triggered by a flock of birds or a weather balloon, media outlets report.

An evacuation order was also in effect for about 30 minutes at the U.S. Capitol, WJLA reported. Early reports pointed to a possible small jet craft in the airspace.

The White House was locked down this morning due to a potential violation of the restricted airspace in the National Capital Region,” Secret Service spokesman told WRC. “The lockdown has been lifted at this time.”

But NORAD confirmed just before 1 p.m. it was a false alarm.

“NORAD responded to an event in the Special Flight Rules Area surrounding Washington D.C. this morning,” the agency tweeted. “NORAD directed @USCG rotary wing aircraft to investigate and the event was resolved without incident.”

It might have been a flock of birds on the radar, ABC11’s Sam Sweeney reported.

A NORAD spokesman said the unidentified object could have been “a flock of birds or a weather balloon,” NBC News reported. But another spokesman wouldn’t “confirm or deny that it was a flock of birds,” Gizmodo reported.

“A trained radar operator should be able to differentiate between a flock of birds and an aircraft, but this mistake is actually a fairly common one,” retired Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton told CNN. “How the flock of birds appears on a radar screen can be very similar to the radar ‘look’ of a small aircraft.”