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Top govt weather agency hits own forecasters for contradicting Trump on Dorian

NBC News logo NBC News 2019-09-07 Dareh Gregorian and Phil Helsel
a man sitting at a desk in front of a window: President Donald Trump holds an early projection map of Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office on Sept. 4, 2019. © Jonathan Ernst President Donald Trump holds an early projection map of Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office on Sept. 4, 2019.

As Hurricane Dorian lashed the East Coast on Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted four times about "Sharpie-gate" while the government agency in charge of weather forecasting took a swipe at its own weather service in a bid to bolster Trump's claims that Alabama could have been affected.

In an unsigned statement released early Friday evening, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that information it provided from Aug. 28 through Monday to Trump and the public "demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama."

And NOAA — which is in charge of the National Weather Service — also chided the NWS in Birmingham, Alabama, for tweeting on Sunday after the president's claim that "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."

In its unusual statement Friday, NOAA said the Birmingham office "spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time."

Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, the union that represents NWS forecasters, ripped the NOAA statement in a tweet Friday evening.

"Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight," he tweeted.

Minutes after the NOAA statement was released, Trump tweeted an edited CNN clip from Wednesday, Aug. 28, warning that Alabama could feel Dorian's effects.

He also tweeted three times about coverage of his warning on Friday morning, around the same time Dorian made landfall in North Carolina, buffeting Cape Hatteras with 90 mph winds and knocking out power to 200,000 households.

"The Fake News Media was fixated on the fact that I properly said, at the beginnings of Hurricane Dorian, that in addition to Florida & other states, Alabama may also be grazed or hit. They went Crazy, hoping against hope that I made a mistake (which I didn’t)," Trump wrote in the first of the tweets.

Trump's insistence that he didn't make a mistake with his Alabama warning has become known as "Sharpie-gate," after he held up a map in the Oval Office during a hurricane briefing earlier this week that looked like it had been altered with the black pen to include Alabama in the area of danger.

The president has continued to complain about the coverage in the days since. On Thursday, the White House issued a statement from a homeland security adviser who said that Trump had been briefed Sunday on "the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama."

His campaign has embraced the bizarre controversy. Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted out a link earlier in the day for supporters to buy sets of official Trump Sharpie-style pens.

"Buy the official Trump marker, which is different than every other marker on the market, because this one has the special ability to drive @CNN and the rest of the fake news crazy!" he wrote.

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