An unnamed White House official told The Washington Post this week that President Trump was the one who doctored a projection of Hurricane Dorian’s path before the map was displayed during a White House meeting between Trump and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
The official said that Trump himself edited a National Hurricane Center (NHC) “Cone of Uncertainty” forecast “with a black Sharpie” on Wednesday to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.
“No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie,” the official told the news outlet.
Dennis Mersereau, a weather blogger and Forbes magazine contributor, noted on Twitter that it is a violation of federal law to falsify a weather report.
According to 18 U.S. Code § 2074, “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.”
Trump tweeted on Sunday that “in addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian.
The National Weather Service in Birmingham responded 20 minutes later with a statement fact-checking Trump’s tweet: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.”
During a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office Wednesday, Trump showed reporters the altered forecast track. Hours later, Trump was asked by a reporter if he knew the map had been altered.
“No,” the president replied. “I just know, I know Alabama was in the original forecast. They thought they would get it as a piece of it. It was supposed to go — actually we have a better map than that which is going to be presented where we had many lines going directly, many models, each line being a model, going directly through. And in all cases, Alabama was it.”
He falsely claimed there had been a “95 percent probability” of Dorian’s path going through Alabama, “but then it made that right turn that a lot of people didn’t expect.”
Trump was asked if the map he displayed was altered using a Sharpie, the president’s pen of choice.
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” he replied before quickly moving on to another question.
Trump doubled down on his remarks Thursday, insisting on Twitter that “certain models strongly suggested” Alabama and Georgia would be hit by the hurricane and that “what I said was accurate!” He also tweeted several outdated maps that were immediately debunked by meteorologists.
No, Mr. President. This shows that individual locations in AL had less than a 1 in 5 chance of receiving TS-force winds over the forecast period. Plus it was 3-day-old data. Actual odds at the time of your tweet that AL would most likely be hit: <10%! You were just wrong. https://t.co/JeuB0knSXJ
— James Franklin (@FranklinJamesL) September 5, 2019
The eye of a hurricane is literally right along the coast right now, as we speak.
And I can't tweet out any storm info without replies with sharpies or Alabama jokes
But keep goin'. Very helpful. https://t.co/o4jmI5HPZ9
— Eric Fisher (@ericfisher) September 5, 2019