Thursday 19 September 2019

US government agency backs Donald Trump over Hurricane Dorian dispute

US president Donald Trump
US president Donald Trump

Seth Borenstein and Kevin Freking

A US government agency has backed president Donald Trump over a disputed claim over the potential impact of Hurricane Dorian on Alabama.

Mr Trump had warned that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, was "most likely to be hit (much) harder than anticipated" last Sunday.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted: "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east."

The president had been adamant that he was correct and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the National Weather Service's tweet "spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time".

The statement from NOAA contrasts with comments the agency's spokesman, Chris Vaccaro, made on Sunday.

"The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama," he said at the time.

Alabama was not mentioned in any of the 75 forecast advisories the hurricane centre sent out between August 27 and September 2 and nor was any Alabama city mentioned in the charts that listed percentage chances of tropical storm force winds or hurricane force winds.

Dan Sobien, president of the union representing weather service employees, tweeted: "Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight."

Alex Sizemore, a meteorologist at NWS in Birmingham, tweeted: "The irony in all of this Twitter mess is that the tweet we sent out had nothing to do with what Trump tweeted, we had no knowledge of it at the time."

Other meteorologists also voiced concerns about NOAA's actions Friday.

"I am very disappointed to see this statement come out from NOAA," Oklahoma University meteorology professor Jason Furtado said.

"I am thankful for the folks at NWS Birmingham for their work in keeping the citizens of Alabama informed and up to date on weather hazards."

He said NOAA's statement and the president's Twitter "war on weather" are undermining confidence in meteorologists, adding, "The job just got harder because of this issue."

The White House did not immediately respond to a question of whether someone at the White House had asked NOAA to issue its statement.

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