NWS told to focus on Dorian forecasts after Trump claims

The National Weather Service sent a memo last week to staffers directing them to focus on Hurricane Dorian and not “national level social media posts,” an apparent reference to false claims made by President Donald Trump that the storm would impact Alabama.

“Ops Center, please send out a message to all (Regional Operations Centers) to alert all (Weather Field Offices) to only stick with official NHC forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts this afternoon. Staff should not provide any opinion about the national level posts and should direct any questions that cannot be satisfied to NOAA Pubic Affairs,” an email sent from the National Weather Service on September 1 said.

An NWS spokesperson, confirming the existence of the memo, said the guidance was intended to “maintain operational focus on Dorian and other severe weather hazards without distraction” and noted that it doesn’t mention Trump.

But the memo, which was first reported by The Washington Post, is another example of the scramble Trump caused when he incorrectly asserted — and repeatedly doubled down on — his Alabama claim.

Last week, Trump caused confusion in Alabama after falsely asserting in a tweet that Dorian would affect the state. The statement caused the NWS’ Birmingham office to contradict the President’s tweet in a move that was later disavowed by the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The controversy grew deeper after Trump showed off an apparently altered map of a forecast from NOAA that showed a black line drawn in marker over the state to imply Dorian’s track would have taken it deep into the Gulf state.

A meteorologist from NOAA, which oversees the NWS, told the Post that the memo was “understood internally to be referring to Trump” and that it came after the Birmingham NWS office contradicted the President.

An official familiar with the matter from NOAA told the Post that there was “no political motivation” behind the memo.