Donald Trump has caused unnecessary confusion by saying Hurricane Dorian – now the joint most powerful storm to make landfall on record – was forecast to hit Alabama, when in fact the state is not among those experts believe is threatened.
Three other states – Florida, South Carolina and Georgia – are all ordering part or full evacuations of their coastal areas and North Carolina has declared a state of emergency, but there are no evacuation orders in place in Alabama.
The US president generated additional bemusement, by saying he had “never even heard of a category 5 storm” before, despite making the same comment at least four times previously during his presidency.
Mr Trump tweeted: “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”
This prompted US weather organisations to refute the president’s statement.
The US National Weather Service branch for Birmingham, Alabama responded to Mr Trump’s tweet saying: “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.”
Mr Trump also claimed he had never heard of a category 5 hurricane, a remark he has made several times before – despite owning property in Florida, a state routinely affected by tropical storms.
“We don’t even know what’s coming at us. All we know is it’s possibly the biggest. I have – I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a category 5. I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some category 4’s – you don’t even see them that much,” Mr Trump said at a briefing with officials at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington DC, CNN reported.
He added: “But a category 5 is something that – I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard the term other than I know it’s there. That’s the ultimate, and that’s what we have unfortunately.”
Many pointed out it was remarkable Mr Trump had repeatedly said he had never heard of a category 5 hurricane.
Dorian is the fourth category 5 storm to make landfall in the US since Mr Trump became president. The others were Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Michael. At least 30 category 5 hurricanes have occurred around the world since 2016.
Previous times Mr Trump has expressed his incredulity at the existence of category 5 hurricanes include the days between the landfalls of Hurricane Irma and Maria, during which he said he “never even knew” they existed.
In October 2017, Mr Trump claimed “nobody has ever heard of a [category] 5 hitting land,” and in May this year, speaking about the impact of Hurricane Michael, Mr Trump said: “Never heard about category 5s before. A category 5 is big stuff.”
Hurricane Dorian has already had a devastating impact on islands in the Bahamas, where a child has reportedly been killed amid floodwaters reaching 18-23 feet (5.5 – 7 metres).
The “catastrophic conditions”, have seen homes inundated with water, while winds gusting up to 220 miles per hour tore buildings’ roofs off.
“This is a very serious hurricane – 185 mph [and] gusts up to 220 mph – that’s the strongest, the largest in modern history, certainly the strongest any of us around here have seen,” Henry McMaster, the governor of South Carolina, said in a press conference.
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