On Wednesday, as Hurricane Dorian pulled northward away from Florida, having narrowly missed the Sunshine State, President Donald Trump offered an update on the storm.
“We got lucky in Florida. Very, very lucky indeed,” the president said. “We had—actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hitting Florida directly. It was going to be hitting directly and that would have affected a lot of other states. But that was the original chart. And you see it was going to hit not only Florida, but Georgia. It was going towards the Gulf. That was what was originally projected. And it took a right turn.”
In the middle of this comment, Trump turned to an aide who held up an official forecast chart from the National Hurricane Center. The forecast, issued at 11am ET on Thursday, August 29, by the Miami-based institution, shows Dorian striking Florida on Monday, September 2.
However, the president’s chart had what appeared to be an addition to the “cone of uncertainty” drawn in black marker. This additional area included the state of Alabama in Dorian’s potential track.
On Sunday, President Trump claimed during a television broadcast that Alabama was threatened by Dorian, and he stood by that claim on Monday. Trump’s comments drew a rebuke from the National Weather Service, which said Alabama would not see any effects from Dorian.
It is frankly remarkable that a president of the United States would share a doctored version of an official forecast from his own government’s agency that is tasked specifically with forecasting hurricanes. (It is also illegal). Later Wednesday, President Trump denied knowing that the map was altered before he showed it during the update.
This is not the first time that fake forecasts have been shared on social media. In 2017, during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Facebook user named Joe Maley shared a fake two-week forecast from the National Hurricane Center predicting that Hurricane Irma would hit storm-weary Texas as Harvey did. It garnered 40,000 shares but was entirely false. Irma didn’t come close to striking Texas.