NOAA plays the next card in ridiculous hurricane map saga


Before getting to the small amount of meat in this story, let’s ask the obvious question. It’s been almost a week now since the argument began over the President’s warning about Hurricane Dorian possibly hitting Alabama. Is this really still dragging on?

Apparently so. After the situation seemed to be settled (at least in the minds of some), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) switched things up last night and declared that the President had been correct after all. Of course, there was no name attached to the statement, which is pretty unusual to begin with. But it does seem to be an official announcement. (Associated Press)

On Sunday, Trump warned that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, was “most likely to be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted in response: “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.”

But the president has been adamant throughout the week that he was correct, and the White House has deployed government resources and staff to back him.

The latest defense came out Friday evening, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement from an unidentified spokesman stating that information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to the president had demonstrated that “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The advisories were dated from last Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Monday, the statement read.

This food fight has now pitted the National Weather Service and NOAA against each other. It also prompted a former National Hurricane Center director to take to Facebook and accuse NOAA of either incompetence or being cowed into submission by the President. And, of course, the cable news networks can’t eat it up fast enough.

The storm has already moved on to swamp North Carolina, so the relevance of this little spat is questionable at best. But the guy from the National Hurricane Center has raised a valid question as to what happened at NOAA yesterday. Remember that NOAA spokesman Chris Vaccaro said last Sunday that “the current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama.” So is last night’s statement a contradiction and could the President have browbeaten them into backing him up?

We seem to be fighting over semantics at this point. Vaccaro said the “forecast path” of the storm didn’t include Alabama. But the maps they generally release of hurricane “paths” show where they expect the eye of the storm to be, along with a “cone of danger” defining what they see as the margin of error. Nobody ever expected the eye of Dorian to blast all the way through Florida and hit Alabama once it got close. (Originally, before it hit the Bahamas, the projections were all over the place. I saw one taking it into the Gulf of Mexico, but that was an outlier.)

Last night’s statement wasn’t talking about the eye of the storm. It referenced the outer bands where tropical-storm-force winds might be experienced. Still worth warning people, but not nearly as bad as a direct hit. So NOAA’s projections last Sunday still had a margin of error and it wouldn’t have been crazy to think that Dorian might have crashed into the coast rather than turning to the northeast. Plenty of storms have in the past. But they quickly determined that it was going to turn. The two sides in this little brouhaha are probably both saying things that were accurate, but some spin is being applied. Did Trump force the issue at NOAA? I doubt we’ll find out unless somebody feels like quitting and becoming a whistleblower.

What this is really about is much simpler. It’s impossible to deny the fact that Donald Trump hates to look like he’s wrong about anything. Ever. And it’s equally true that most of the mainstream media would rather have multiple root canals sans anesthesia than admit that he was right about anything. Ever. So this pointless exercise was yet another excuse for both sides to duke it out.

It doesn’t matter. The storm is doing what it was projected to do. People have been warned about it in advance. There will be more storms. And probably more pointless media wars like this. Welcome to 2019.

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