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Weatherman Not Required: Trump Presents Altered Hurricane Map Falsely Showing Alabama In Danger

© AP Photo / Evan VucciPresident Donald Trump holds a chart as he talks with reporters after receiving a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office of the White House
President Donald Trump holds a chart as he talks with reporters after receiving a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office of the White House - Sputnik International
When US President Donald Trump gave a brief update on Hurricane Dorian Wednesday, his map graphic of the storm’s path showed what appeared to be a hand-drawn addition that included Alabama - a state Trump said for days the storm could hit, despite meteorologist statements otherwise. One expert noted he might have broken federal law by doing so.

“We got lucky in Florida, very, very lucky indeed,” Trump said in a video shot in the Oval Office and tweeted out on the White House account Wednesday afternoon. “We had actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hitting Florida directly,” he said, motioning for a large visual aid of a National Hurricane Center map.

“It was going to be hitting directly, and that would have affected a lot of other states,” Trump said. “But that was the original chart. And we see it was going to hit not only Florida but Georgia, it was going toward the Gulf, that was what was originally projected.”

However, while he noted the storm “took a right turn … and it’s heading up the coast,” the president never showed a graphic for meteorologists’ present projections for the storm’s track in the coming days - which the president had retweeted just hours before. Instead, it seems the purpose of the video was to show the outdated projection, which observers quickly noted had a curious addition:

​The addition, which doesn’t look remotely like the rest of the projection, extends just enough to include Alabama’s coastline - a state Trump has repeatedly insisted Hurricane Dorian had endangered, even while multiple weather reporters and agencies actively refuted the claim.

One meteorologist noted the president may have broken a federal law by delivering a false weather report:

​“Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both,” a 1948 federal law reads, according to Cornell Law.

Twitterstorm Origins

As early as September 1, Trump was claiming that Alabama could be among the states hit by the storm, which at the time was just east of the Bahamas. However, by then the National Weather Service’s projections had already changed, showing a hook north and east, more or less along the course it’s still projected to take.

​Indeed, just 20 minutes after Trump’s erroneous Sunday tweet, the National Weather Service’s Twitter account for Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted in no uncertain terms that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian,” adding that “The system will remain too far east.”

​Just minutes later, James Spann, a meteorologist for Birmingham-based ABC affiliate WBMA-LD quote-tweeted the president directly with the same message. That’s when Trump fired back, doubling down on his claim while attacking Spann and ABC for their “lightweight” reporting.

​So, credit where credit is due: Trump is right. Sort of. However, to find a projection that agrees with him, one must go back to August 28, when the storm wasn’t far past Puerto Rico and was centered east of the Turks & Caicos Islands. As weather patterns changed, so did projections of the storm’s strength and path.

But shortly after his initial tweet and well before responding to Spann, Trump repeated the claim several more times. At an 11:14 a.m. presser Sunday on the White House South Lawn, Trump told reporters that “Alabama is going to get a piece of it, it looks like,” then said it again at 12:31 p.m. during a briefing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

However, any effects Alabama might have felt would have been incidental, compared to the battering that awaited the Atlantic coast. Projections gave a 5-10% chance of Alabama’s southeastern corner experiencing tropical storm-force winds, but only when Dorian was much more powerful than it is now. Its subsequent stalling over the Bahamas significantly weakened the storm from an ultra-powerful Category 5 storm to a Category 2 hurricane.

So, when Trump whipped out that doctored graphic in the Oval Office Wednesday, Twitter gave him hell for it.

​One person suggested that, since Trump loves redrawing maps so much, maybe he could include Greenland in the US of A, since he recently tried to buy it from Denmark.

​Climate change denial is one thing, but weather change denial? That’s expert-level.

​Won’t someone think of the dystopian writers? 

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