Gov. DeSantis dismisses furor over weather service interference as ‘a press thing’

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Gov. Ron DeDantis declined Monday to be drawn into the debate over whether Floridians could trust weather forecasts in light of the Trump administration’s political interference with the National Weather Service.

When Hurricane Dorian loomed offshore, DeSantis advised Floridians to closely monitor weather forecasts. Asked specifically Monday whether, still deep into hurricane season, they can trust those forecasts under these circumstances, DeSantis didn’t directly answer.

“That’s more of a press thing,” the governor told reporters during a media availability.

The episode began during late morning on Sunday, Sept. 1, when Trump warned on Twitter that the Southeast – including Alabama – “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian.

Some 20 minutes later, the NWS Birmingham office issued its own tweet, reportedly in response to calls from Alabama residents alarmed at the president’s warning: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

Subsequently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rebuked the Birmingham forecasters.

DeSantis noted Monday that early forecasts suggested Dorian might indeed affect portions of Alabama. “As we got into the weekend, we knew it was pretty much an East Coast storm, and that our Panhandle communities were not going to be dealt with,” he said.

But, as of Trump’s initial tweet, forecasters expected minimal if any effects from Dorian.

In another development Monday, Craig McLean, acting chief scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, said he would investigate “potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity,” the Washington Post reported.

In an email to employees, McLean complained that the administration’s interference was “not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political.”

NWS Director Louis Uccellini, meanwhile, praised his Birmingham staff during a meteorological conference in Huntsville, Ala., according to the Post account. “With an emphasis they deemed essential, they shut down what they thought were rumors,” he said.

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