One man told of how, after receiving the alert and believing it to be real, he was forced to make a split second decision on which of his family members he would spend the last moments of his life with.
A second message, delivered nearly 40 minutes later, said there was no threat or danger.
Hawaii’s governor David Ige has since issued an apology for the false alarm, saying someone had ”pushed the wrong button” during a shift change, according to CNN.
Gene Park, who works for the Washington Post, tweeted a message he has received from a friend in Hawaii who was “in tears” after the false alarm.
He said the father had just dropped his oldest child off at the airport and stopped at a restaurant when he received the warning.
The man, fearing the missile could strike at any minute, was then faced with the unimaginable choice of either sheltering where he was, driving back to the airport to be with his eldest son, driving to his wife, who was elsewhere, or heading home to be with his two youngest children.
He made the decision to head home to be with his youngest children, despite “knowing I would’t likely make it home in time”.
Hawaiian Senator Brian Schatz described the incident as “inexcusable”.
He tweeted: “AGAIN FALSE ALARM. What happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.”
Another twitter user said: “So this emergency alert message was sent to phones all around the Hawaii area and it turned out to be ‘just a mistake.’
“To me a mistake is getting the license plate one digit off on an amber alert and quickly fixing it not a freaking ballistic missile launch alert oh my god.”
The false alarm comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, with the rogue state regularly threatening to attack America with its arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong-un has previously said he would order a strike against the US territory of Guam, which is well within range of its current ballistic missiles.
And Hawaii, sitting a little over half way between the hermit kingdom and mainland US, would also likely be in range of the dictator’s long-range weapons.