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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump needed a weatherman to know which way the storm blew

President Donald Trump on Sunday at FEMA's National

President Donald Trump on Sunday at FEMA's National Response Coordination Center in Washington. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm

Most people in most jobs would correct any errors they make when sharing emergency information.

They'd say something like, "Sorry, I'm told that's outdated. Here's what we know right now." 

President Donald Trump isn't most people. As Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas over Labor Day weekend, he kept pointing to Alabama as an area of upcoming concern, which it wasn't.

"In addition to Florida — South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated," he tweeted at 10:51 a.m. Sept. 1.

Twenty minutes later, the National Weather Service issued this notice: "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."

The NWS was right. And there would have been no blowback if Trump had recast what he said and told everyone to forget the earlier warning.

But the president — who at various times has professed to know the enemy better than the generals, fiscal policy better than budget experts and the law better than certain judges — simply would not be corrected.

So he then said, despite the NWS advisory: "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." 

Not so.

The episode's most bizarre highlight was still to come. Last Wednesday, Trump displayed a doctored weather chart of the storm's earlier-expected path. 

The falsified graphic showed a real National Hurricane Center projection — from well before the Labor Day weekend. It had been altered crudely in black marker to suggest the storm could move into Alabama from Florida. Asked later if the hurricane chart had been drawn on, Trump said, "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

Chances are he did know. A White House official told The Washington Post last Thursday that the president himself added the amateurish black ring to the map. 

“No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie,” the official said.

Trump's tempest fits neatly into the ecosystem he's created at the White House. 

He had aides and relatives second his sneers at the news media as liars for reporting confirmed facts. He got a security adviser, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Brown, to provide a memo saying the president was correct about Dorian's "potential impact." 

Similar scrambles by staff to buttress what Trump said have followed his other contrived statements. These involved his inaugural's crowd size, how fraud cost him the popular vote and how “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with Mexico "caravans."

Once again, a big news event affecting many of his fellow Americans featured Trump claiming to be a victim. Blasting hurricane news coverage, he tweeted last Friday: "There are many things that the Fake News Media has not apologized to me for, like the Witch Hunt, or SpyGate!"  

Practically, Trump's Weathergate squall proved irrelevant during the storm. U.S., Alabama and Florida officials apparently based no response strategies or resource allocations on the president's freelance predictions.

Fortunately for taxpayers, emergency officials seem to work around him.


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