Trump reportedly told staff weather agency should fix row over hurricane path

2019-09-12 04:11:18 GMT2019-09-12 12:11:18(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump has told his staff that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should fix a row involving its subsidiary and the president over Hurricane Dorian's path, U.S. media reported Wednesday.

Citing senior administration officials, The Washington Post said Trump told staff that the NOAA should deal with a tweet sent on Sept. 1 by the National Weather Service's (NWS) Birmingham, Alabama, branch that contradicted the president's statement that Dorian could affect Alabama.

The Post said Trump's instruction led to White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney telling Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to address the issue. The NOAA is a division of the Commerce Department, and the NWS is a part of the NOAA.

The New York Times reported Monday that Ross threatened to fire top employees at the NOAA if the agency didn't disavow the NWS's position. The Commerce Department denied Ross had made such threats, according to the Times.

Mulvaney didn't instruct Ross to fire anyone in the call, according to the officials.

While Trump's repeated defense of his version of Dorian's path raised concerns that his administration was improperly intervening in the professional weather forecasting system, the NOAA's statement issued last Friday admitting that the NWS Birmingham office was wrong to rebut the president's warning was under investigation by the Commerce Department's inspector general.

The NOAA said in the statement that the information related to Dorian that was provided by the agency and the National Hurricane Center to the president and general public "demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama."

The agency added that the NWS Birmingham office's Sept. 1 tweet, in which it said "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian," was "inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time."

The inspector general, Peggy Gustafson, wrote in a letter to NOAA staff requesting materials related to Friday's statement, saying the situation could "call into question the NWS's processes, scientific independence, and ability to communicate accurate and timely weather warnings and data to the nation in times of national emergency," the Times reported.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology announced Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into Ross's actions.

Trump told reporters Wednesday that he didn't direct the NOAA to issue the Friday statement, calling the allegation "a hoax" and "fake news."