It’s been two weeks of hurricanes in our corner of the world — Hurricane Dorian, which devastated parts of the Bahamas and rocked the Carolinas; and Hurricane Donald, which threatened to destabilize Alabama.
It all began when President Donald J. Trump tweeted that Alabama was in the line of fire of Dorian’s fury, along with Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina. The Birmingham, Alabama office of the National Weather Service immediately corrected the president’s tweet, saying that Alabama was too far west for Dorian’s embrace and thus would “NOT” need to evacuate.
This led to days and days — and days — of the president attempting to justify his tweet, even displaying an old map with a sharpie demarcating Alabama in the hurricane’s crosshairs. The result was some of the better internet commentary, including this howler: “Donald, can you show us on the map where the bad hurricane hurt you?”
If only everything was that funny. But there’s a reason that it’s a federal crime to falsify a National Weather Service report and pass it off as official: It can put people in harm’s way by creating a false sense of security in some who are not actually out of danger and waste time, energy, money and other resources on those who are not in the path of destruction.
A narcissist, however, may not always be right but he is never wrong. And so, the president persisted until the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chastised the NWS’ Birmingham office for contradicting the president. (Apparently, NOAA had issued a directive to its own employees to button it where Trump’s meteorological tweets were concerned. )
It was a stunning moment made all the more stunning by a rebuke of the rebuke by the NWS and the American Meteorological Society, which are standing by the NWS’ Birmingham office. People, if you can’t trust the government, we’re lost. But all Trump cares about is his base as Alabama has the highest percentage of his supporters. All he had to do was say, “Oops, I was operating on early info. Good news for Alabama: You’re in the clear. Now let’s direct our efforts to the Bahamas and the Carolinas.” Or say nothing.
Instead he created chaos — just call him Eris, goddess of discord — and gave his detractors more fodder.
Meanwhile, the Bahamas are struggling mightily. Here are a few of the worthy organizations that are on the ground there, along with the U.S. Coast Guard — Americares (americares.org), Project Hope (projecthope.org) and chef José Andres’ World Central Kitchen (wck.org).
And might I suggest writing your local meteorologists and thanking them for doing a tireless, technical sometimes tedious, sometimes dangerous job to keep the rest of us safe.