Storm around Dorian forecasting touches on Boulder

The political hurricane stemming from Sharpiegate, in which President Donald Trump reportedly used a black marker to alter a map of the potential path of Hurricane Dorian, has seen the outer bands of its turmoil reach Boulder.

National Weather Association Director Louis Uccellini has come to the defense of Birmingham, Ala., forecasters who tweeted out correct information about Hurricane Dorian after Trump wrongly predicted — and backed up his Twitter comments with an altered NWS map — that the storm that savaged Bermuda posed a threat to Alabama.

Uccellini did so this week at the ongoing meeting of the National Weather Association, coincidentally being held in Alabama, telling the Associated Press “They did that with one thing in mind: public safety.”

The meeting also is being attended by Boulder-based National Weather Service forecaster Paul Schlatter, president of the National Weather Association, with a national membership of over 2,200. He also backs up the actions of the Birmingham forecasters.

Reached in Huntsville, Ala., Tuesday, Schlatter, a Boulder native who also is  science and operations officer for the NWS in Boulder, said “Our duty is to forecast the weather and message the impacts of the people who can make the right decision. It’s all about public safety.

“If any office starts to see social media posts or phone calls that don’t match our forecasts, they’re getting incorrect information from somewhere. It’s our duty to set that straight, because we are the official source of watches, warnings and (alerts for) public safety. Any office would have jumped on that right away.”

‘Not based on science’

According to Uccellini, the Birmingham forecasters were not initially aware that Trump was behind reports that Alabama was at risk from the storm, and were surprised to be hit with a barrage of phone calls and social media contacts after the presidential tweet, which did not reflect updated information concerning the storm’s expected path.

Trump had, on Sept. 1, tweeted that “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

There had been a forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parent agency to NWS, two days earlier, that showed a tiny portion of southeastern Alabama could be affected by Dorian. But those forecasts had been revised by the time of Trump’s tweet, eliminating Alabama from the so-called “cone of uncertainty.”