A Timeline of Trump's Alabama Hurricane Lie
On Sep 1, 2019, Donald Trump tweeted about Hurricane Dorian that "In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated." As it pertains to Alabama, a state who loves him, that is a demonstrably false statement. Specifically, it is the "most likely" and "(much) harder than anticipated" that is false on the face of it. Here is how we came to this sad state of affairs.
Timeline of Hurricane Dorian Projections and Trump's Claims
The following is a timeline (courtesy of Daniel Dale and Brandon Miller CNN) of how we got here. My sources are NOAA's anonymous attempt to justify Trump's statements and from Trump's tweets and statements themselves.
(Keep in mind, Trump says he was frequently updated on Dorian during this period.)
Aug 27 - First time NOAA charts show the SE corner of AL had a 5 - 10% chance of tropical force winds (39 to 73 mph).
Aug 30 - The maximum chance of AL being affected by Dorian: Swath from SW corner to NE corner, 5 - 10%; a swath East of that 10 - 20% chance; a little area around the SE corner had a 20 - 30% chance of TF winds. This forecast lasted about a day.
2 AM Sep 1 - A little area around the SE corner had a 5 - 10% chance of TF winds.
10:51 AM Sep 1 - Trump tweets "In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."
11:11 AM Sep 1 - The National Weather Service (part of NOAA) refuted Trump by tweeting "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."
11:14 AM Sep 1 - Probably unaware of the NWS tweet, Trump tells reporters
"The original course was dead into Florida. Now it seems to be going up to toward South Carolina, toward North Carolina. Georgia is going to be hit. Alabama is going to get a piece of it, it looks like."
12:31 PM Sep 1 - Trump is probably now aware of the NWS denial, and following a NOAA briefing, he tells reporters:
"And, I will say, the states -- and it may get a little piece of a great place: It's called Alabama. And Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that, it could be. This just came up, unfortunately. It's the size of -- the storm that we're talking about. So, for Alabama, just please be careful also," Saying "this just came up".
7:16 PM Sep 2 - Trump begins to backtrack by tweeting in response to some NBC news criticism:
"...when in fact, under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some “hurt.” Always good to be prepared! But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!"
2:00 AM Sep 3 - There is no longer any threat for even tropical force winds in Alabama according to NOAA.
2:38 PM Sep 4 - Trump shows the world an altered NOAA forecast map. The actual map, dated 11:00 AM Aug 29, showed the probable paths of Dorian; they do not come close to Alabama. But Trump, according to the Washington Post, altered the cone with a Sharpie to include Alabama. (The Trump campaign is now selling Sharpies for $15 for a pack of 5). Trump states "Alabama was in the original forecast."
6:23 PM Sep 4 - Trump produces an Aug 28 "spaghetti" model map (when Dorian was a Cat 1 near Puerto Rico) that has several models seemingly pointing at Alabama, although it is hard to tell. He said,
"This was the originally projected path of the Hurricane in its early stages. As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!"
The map was not from NOAA.
7:48 AM Sep 5 - Once again Trump retreats some more by tweeting about some out-of-date models where he said that
"... he had been referring to "certain models" when he made his comments: 'In the one model through Florida, the Great State of Alabama would have been hit or grazed.' "
10:16 AM Sep 5 - Eric Trump, Trump's son, joins the fray by tweeting out an old NOAA forecast of tropical force winds where the probability of these winds reaching a sliver of the SE Alabama was between 5 and 10%.
1:03 PM Sep 5 - The South Florida Water Management District told CNN they "produce hundreds" of spaghetti plots per day" and that they are refreshed every 15 minutes.
4:44 PM Sep 5 - Trump tweets out more old maps claiming "Just as I said, Alabama was originally projected to be hit. The Fake News denies it!"
5:31 PM Sep 5 - Donald Trump brings in reinforcements by ordering his homeland security adviser, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown to say that Trump that:
"made his Sunday comments after Brown gave the President a hurricane briefing that "included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama."
Late Sep 6 - An anonymous source released a NOAA statement that said that last Sunday's tweet by the NWS which said “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian” was inaccurate. That the truth was:
"The [NWS] tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time,” (see Updates for additional information)
Late Sep 6 - Fox News goes to war with itself over what is now called "Sharpie-gate." Shep Smith says that Trump was absolutely incorrect and is wrong in trying to defend his error. On the other hand, Sean Hannity effectively calls Smith and the rest of the news media liars.
3:36 PM Sep 7 - CNN reports on the Fox Feud
7:16 PM Sep 7 - This author is writing about it.
It appears that on Sep 1, Rear Admiral Brown briefed Donald Trump that there was a small chance, 5 - 10%, that Alabama might receive tropical force winds from Hurricane Dorian. He was not told that Alabama was in the cone of probability for a direct strike by the hurricane. At that time Dorian was parked over the Bahama's and was projected to travel up the Florida coast and then turn east before it reached the Georgia coast line; landfall in Georgia was possible, but not likely (Dorian finally made landfall of a sorts on the North Carolina barrier islands on Sep 6).
If, Dorian got into Georgia a little bit, there was a chance tropical force winds might reach the southeast corner of Alabama. With that knowledge, Trump chose to tweet at 10:51 AM Sep 1, shortly after having been briefed on the situation, that:
"In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,"
Key to this whole analysis is Trump spoke in the future tense. His later backtracking attempted to claim he was talking in the past tense.
His statement is false in two respects. First, there was only a 5 - 10% chance (which is not "most likely") that Alabama might receive some wind from Dorian. Second, the strength of the hit, if it happened at all, was less, not "(much) harder" than forecasts from two days before. Those are demonstrable truths, not open to interpretation.
Because Trump knew, from his earlier briefing, what the truth was, he chose to lie about it. Why is anybody's guess, but he did lie.
From that beginning, he decided not to concede the facts that he was wrong and proceeded to backtrack by lying about when he was told about the possibility of Alabama being involved. He produced old maps of when there was a slightly higher chance of Alabama receiving tropical force winds. He softened his rhetoric to say "graze" and "might hit". He produced a falsified forecast (which is actually a crime) that showed, erroneously, that Alabama was in fact part of the cone of probability where Dorian might strike. The fact is, Alabama was never in Dorian's sights - ever.
Why his supporters don't get tired of his incessant, pathological lying is beyond me. I understand they don't see him as lying, or if they do, they don't care. Hopefully, the rest of us do and will boot him from office 14 months from now and let the new Justice Department prosecute him if the evidence so indicates.
9/10/2019 - Federal employees are standing up to the Trump administrations bullying - https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/09/media/donald-trump-war-on-truth-reliable-sources/index.html
9/9/2019 - The NY Times reported that Wilber Ross, Commerce Secretary, threatened to fire senior political staff at NOAA. Ross reportedly called acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs repudiate the Alabama NWS office's contradiction of Trump's claim. Jacob apparently said no at which time Ross told him he would fire NOAA's political staff. This threat worked as NOAA released an unsigned statement contracting the NWS tweet.
The Washington Post reported that a "NOAA official said he will investigate if the agency violated its own ethics when it backed Trump's tweets about the hurricane over its experts." The Commerce Department is denying everything.
© 2019 Scott Belford