Donald Trump has used an apparently clumsily doctored map to bolster his suggestion that Alabama faced a serious threat from Hurricane Dorian – despite forecasters in the US maintaining the state was never in the storm’s path.
At an Oval Office briefing on Wednesday, the US President showed a National Hurricane Centre forecast map from last week that showed Dorian was likely to head for Florida.
His map included what appeared to be a half-circle drawn in marker pen that extended the possible path over a swathe of Alabama towards the Gulf of Mexico.
“We got lucky in Florida. Very, very lucky indeed,” Mr Trump said.
“Our original chart was that it was going to be hitting Florida directly.”
Reviewing the image, Mr Trump said Dorian would have affected a lot of other US states.
“It was going to hit not only Florida, but Georgia. It … was going toward the Gulf,” he said.
“That was what was originally projected, and it took a right turn, and ultimately, hopefully we’re going to be lucky.”
Mr Trump raised eyebrows at the weekend – and earned a rebuke from the US National Weather Service – when he tweeted that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated”.
— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) September 1, 2019
The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre has issued 45 advisories giving probabilities for tropical storm and hurricane force winds for dozens of cities affected by Dorian. Alabama locations were not in any of those advisories, although places in Massachusetts and Canada were.
Few, if any, meteorologists have ever put Alabama in the hurricane’s path. On Monday, Mr Trump pushed back, insisting that “under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt'”.
Mr Trump later said he did not not know anything about the amended map. He remained adamant that forecasts had suggested Alabama was in Dorian’s path.
“I know that Alabama was in the original forecast,” he said.
“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 – and they were going directly through. And in all cases Alabama was hit if not lightly, in some cases pretty hard. … They actually gave that a 95 per cent chance probability.”
In fact, the highest probability issued for a US locale for Dorian has been in the 60 per cent range, not 95 per cent.
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! pic.twitter.com/0uCT0Qvyo6
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2019
Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, responded: “He has no clue what he’s talking about, or what is plotted on that map. At the time of that cycle, Alabama was at even lower risk than before, and it was barely anything to start with.”
On Thursday (AEST), Dorian was creeping up the south-eastern coast of the US. Millions of people had been ordered to evacuate as forecasters said near-record levels of seawater and rain could inundate Georgia and the Carolinas.
The hurricane has already wreaked deadly havoc on the Bahamas, where at least 20 people have died and whole towns appear to have been destroyed.