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James Spann wades into dispute over Trump’s hurricane claims

After President Donald Trump claimed incorrectly that a hurricane was going to his Alabama, he launched a retribution campaign against the National Weather Service and held up a map with a loop around Alabama drawn on with a sharpie.

The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service is backing President Donald Trump over the weather service’s Birmingham office in the week-long dispute over whether Hurricane Dorian ever had the potential to impact Alabama — and the state’s most popular television meteorologist is weighing in.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a statement Friday afternoon, backing up Trump’s claim that Alabama was in fact threatened by the hurricane at the time he tweeted on Sunday that Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

ABC 33/40′s James Spann, a prominent meteorologist based in Birmingham, tweeted about the NOAA’s statement Friday afternoon, saying the tweet from the Birmingham NWS was correct in stating that Dorian posed no threat to Alabama.

“The tweet from NWS Birmingham was spot on and accurate,” Spann wrote in the tweet. “If they [the NOAA] are coming after them, they might as well come after me. How in the world has it come to this?”

Spann is well-known for largely avoiding political topics including climate change but he nevertheless weighed in on the spat spurred by Trump.

Spann defended the Birmingham NWS in a followup tweet, saying he stands behind the office “100 percent.”

“@NWSBirmingham has a brilliant staff of experienced atmospheric scientists that have helped to save countless lives in my state over the years,” Spann wrote. “They were thrown under the bus today by their parent agency. I stand behind NWS Birmingham 100 percent.”

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The Birmingham National Weather Service quickly responded to Trump’s claim earlier in the week, posting a tweet on Sunday debunking Trump’s claim, stating, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

The president dismissed the tweet from the Birmingham NWS and spent the week insisting he was correct. On Wednesday, Trump held up an earlier forecast map of the hurricane’s path that appeared to show a black line written in marker extending into Alabama in an apparent attempt to justify his claim.

The Washington Post later reported Trump himself drew on the map, altering the weather service’s projected forecast.

The NOAA’s statement on Friday referenced the that forecast, stating that the Birmingham NWS tweet was incorrect in saying “in absolute terms” that Alabama would not be impacted by Dorian. 

“From Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Monday, Sept. 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama. This is clearly demonstrated in Hurricane Advisories #15 through #41, which can be viewed at the following link,” the NOAA statement read. “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”


Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.

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