SATURDAY, DEC. 9 (updates 1:30pm, 5:30pm, MON. 10:55am) People running up hills; mothers snatching kids out of birthday parties and a police blockade of a main road were all the result of panic spread by a tidal wave rumour.

There was no definitive explanation about the original source of the rumour, but Minister of Public Safety David Burch put the blame on one, unnamed person.

The police may have added to the panic by blocking off Barnes Corner and preventing traffic from entering the Somerset area. The police action added an air of credibility to the reports, which turned out to be false.

There were 18 to 24-foot waves crashing into the reefs, which - according to Dr. Mark Guishard of the Bermuda Weather Service - are normal for this time of year.

The high waves gave the illusion of a long wall of water along the horizon, which could explain why people thought a tidal wave was heading towards the west end.

One member of the public told the Bermuda Sun of a how a friend snatched their child out of a birthday party to rush home.

Another person told the Sun that the Police had blocked off Barnes Corner and wouldn't let any traffic through.

They also sighted a woman who was directing people to get to higher ground.

"I told her the Weather Service had come on the radio and said there was no tidal wave."

The woman replied that her sister had seen it and she did not believe the radio reports.

By 1pm this afternoon the Weather Service had posted on their website (www.weather.bm) and on their TV station: "THERE ARE NO EMERGENCY WEATHER OR TIDAL CONDITIONS IN BERMUDA... THERE ARE NO WARNINGS REGARDING FLOODING OF ANY KIND...Conditions are forecast to generally improve through the weekend, although temperatures will remain on the cool side."

Also this afternoon, Col Burch issued a press statement that read: "Today the Ministry of Public Safety and Housing moved to allay public concerns regarding reports, made earlier this afternoon, of a higher than normal wave heading towards Bermuda.

"There were reports from a member of the public that there was a large wave heading towards Bermuda. I want to reiterate that this was a complete false alarm.

"Dr. Mark Guishard, the Director of the Bermuda Weather Service reports that 18-24-foot waves breaking on the north shore, happens often during and after strong northerly winds in the winter.

"The Ministry can confirm that there have been no Advisories for Bermuda or anywhere else in the region posted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who is in charge of such warnings.

"It is apparent that this phenomenon has been misinterpreted by a member of the public as one large wave approaching the island."

Minister Burch also confirmed that a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding the communication of this event to the general public will be conducted as a matter of urgency.

Several calls were made to the Bermuda Police Service, but a promised call back to the Bermuda Sun was not made.