Donald Trump presented an altered National Hurricane Centre map that expanded Hurricane Dorian’s official forecast so it would include Alabama, a state he incorrectly and repeatedly said would be hit by the storm.
Speaking to media in the Oval Office on Wednesday, the president asked acting department of homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan to retrieve a large map from behind him showing the hurricane’s potential path over the US after it pummelled the Bahamas throughout the week.
The map shows the correct National Hurricane Centre forecast for Hurricane Dorian, outlining portions of Florida and Georgia that may be hit by the storm, as well as a black line scribbled onto the forecast that wraps around southern Alabama and its coastline.
The outlined addition of Alabama in the president’s map does not appear on any of National Hurricane Centre forecasts reviewed by The Independent.
Asked a press conference shortly after whether he was aware the map had been altered, Mr Trump replied: “No....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.”
Some viewers noted the map appeared to have been doctored using a thick black marker, suggesting it was not an official forecast provided by the centre, but instead a cover-up for the president’s previous inaccuracies about Alabama being included in the hurricane’s trajectory.
This could not be independently confirmed, however, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.
If the president did in fact alter the National Hurricane Centre map, the move could be in direct violation of US federal law.
A US law on false weather reports — first pointed out on Twitter by Forbes Sciences contributor Dennis Mersereau — says its illegal to knowingly issue or publish “any counterfeit weather forecasts or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, the US Signal Service, or other brand of the government service”.
Aftermath in Bahamas as Dorian moves away
The law says those in violation could be fined or jailed for a maximum of 90 days.
The National Weather Service previously advised Alabama residents through a local Twitter handle that the state would “not see any impacts” from the hurricane, adding: “The system will remain too far east.”
But Mr Trump was emphatic about Hurricane Dorian striking Alabama, tweeting out his own assertions despite the state never being forecast to be hit.
“In addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,” he wrote on Sunday morning.
He stated without evidence on three separate occasions that Alabama was a likely target of the storm. When news outlets attempted to correct him, he referred to their reports as “phoney”.
The president then continued to assert he was right about Alabama being included in the forecast, saying later on Wednesday there are “other, better maps” that include the state in their forecasts. The weather service has disputed those claims.