Leadership at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) directed employees at the agency not to contradict President Donald Trump's claim that Alabama was in the projected path of Hurricane Dorian hours after he made the statement.
According to The Washington Post, the NOAA directive was sent out on Sept. 1 after Trump tweeted, "In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!"
NOAA had never publicly mentioned Alabama as being in the storm's projected path, so Trump's tweet was met with a firestorm of criticism. According to the Post, NOAA officials tried to keep agency employees from speaking out against Trump's statement.
"Only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon," the memo read.
Employees were also instructed not to "provide any opinion," on the matter.
One anonymous NOAA meteorologist told the Post that the memo was sent out after the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted that the state was not expected to see any impact from Dorian in response to Trump's tweet.
The entire story took on new life last week, as Dorian was churning up the east coast toward North Carolina, when Trump displayed a NOAA map dated Aug. 29 with Dorian's projected path. The forecast at that point was for Dorian to slam into Florida's east coast as a major hurricane, and the cone of uncertainty included the entire length of Florida. There was, however, a hand drawn extension of the cone in black marker that indicated Alabama was also in Dorian's projected path.
NOAA officials sent out another memo to employees that asked them not to speak out about the doctored map, the Post reported.
"This is the first time I've felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast," the aforementioned anonymous meteorologist told the Post. "It's hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring — ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet, that is what they get paid to do."
Friday evening, after Dorian battered North Carolina and its Outer Banks with fierce winds and heavy rains, NOAA issued a statement that supported Trump's Alabama claim.
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