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National Govt & Politics
Weather Service office rebuked over Trump, Dorian tweet
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Weather Service office rebuked over Trump, Dorian tweet

Weather Service office rebuked over Trump, Dorian tweet

Weather Service office rebuked over Trump, Dorian tweet

In a highly unusual public reprimand of a local weather forecast office, the parent agency of the National Weather Service on Friday said forecasters in Birmingham, Alabama wrongly issued a tweet disputing President Donald Trump's Sunday warning that the state of Alabama could be directly impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

"The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products at the time," the statement read from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I have never been so embarrassed by NOAA," said Dan Sobien, the head of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. "What they did is just disgusting."

The unattributed statement was quickly denounced by weather experts, including the dean of Alabama TV meteorologists, James Spann.

"The tweet from NWS Birmingham was spot on and accurate," Spann tweeted, expressing his indignation that the White House had seemingly spurred NOAA to criticize government weather forecasters.

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Weather Service office rebuked over Trump, Dorian tweet

The Birmingham National Weather Service office issued that tweet on Sunday morning, soon after President Trump had said to TV cameras - and on Twitter - that Alabama "will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated" - even though the National Hurricane Center had the storm going nowhere near Alabama.

"Alabama could even be in for at least some very strong winds and something more than that, it could be." the President told reporters on Sunday. 

"This just came up, unfortunately," he added. "So, for Alabama, just please be careful also." 

But the National Hurricane Center forecast was not focused at all on Alabama, instead focused on threats to the Atlantic seaboard from Florida through the Carolinas - and the National Weather Service office in Birmingham quickly said residents of Alabama were not in any weather danger.

"There is nothing wrong with this Tweet from NWS Birmingham issued on Sept 1 after the President's erroneous information," tweeted meteorologist Ryan Maue.

"Nothing like throwing your "Alabama" NWS office under the bus," Maue added on Twitter.

The President's mention of Alabama on Sunday had basically been ignored as the news focus was on Hurricane Dorian destroying islands in the Bahamas, and then threatening the eastern coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

But that changed on Wednesday, when an out-of-date National Hurricane Center forecast map was used as part of a briefing in the Oval Office, as the map was altered with a black pen - evidently to demonstrate a weather threat to Alabama - and support the President's mention of the Yellowhammer State.

"They actually gave that a 95 percent chance probability," the President said of Dorian's threat to Alabama on Wednesday.

"It turned out that that was not what happened; it made the right turn up the coast," Mr. Trump told reporters. "But Alabama was hit very hard, and was going to be hit very hard, along with Georgia." 

The President was absolutely correct that earlier last week, there were concerns that Dorian could go across the Florida Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening Alabama and the Gulf Coast.

But by Sunday when President Trump warned residents in Alabama about Dorian, that state was not in the sights of the hurricane at all.

The reaction in the weather community to the Friday statement by NOAA was one of shock.

"The most embarrassing thing I’ve seen @NOAA do in my 35 years in the field," said University of Oklahoma meteorologist Kevin Kloesel.

"Omg @NOAA really," said Marshall Shepherd, a former NASA scientist and weather professor.

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  • A federal judge sentenced actress Felicity Huffman to 14 days in prison on Friday after she admitted earlier this year to paying an admissions consultant to falsify her eldest daughter's college entrance exam. >> Read more trending news  Huffman, 56, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors said she paid admissions consultant William 'Rick' Singer $15,000, which she disguised as a charitable donation, to rig her daughter's SAT score. Authorities said her daughter was unaware of the arrangement. Update 3:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Prosecutors said Huffman has been ordered to self-report to a Bureau of Prisons facility Oct. 25 to begin her 14-day prison sentence. The facility was not immediately chosen. Her attorney asked U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to allow her to report to the facility in Dublin, California, which is closest to her home, WFXT reported. Update 3:35 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani sentenced Huffman to serve 14 days in jail and 250 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges leveled at her as part of a probe into a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme. In a statement read Friday in court, Huffman apologized to college officials and other students who were affected by her decision to participate in the bribery scheme. She said she felt ashamed of her choice. Prosecutors said prison time would deter others from committing similar crimes and noted that Huffman's reputation would likely recover. Prosecutors said she signed a movie deal with Netflix while awaiting sentencing, according to WFXT. Attorneys for Huffman argued against jail time for the 'Desperate Housewives' actress, pointing to her remorse and her lack of a previous criminal record, among other factors. Update 2:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Huffman appeared in a courtroom on the third floor of the federal courthouse in Boston on Friday for a sentencing hearing. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, was also in the courthouse, according to WFXT. He has not been charged as part of the case. Update 2 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Huffman arrived at the federal courthouse in Boston on Friday afternoon ahead of her scheduled sentencing hearing. Original report: Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to sentence the 'Desperate Housewives' actress to one month in prison and supervised release, citing her deliberate and repeated deception of her daughter's high school, the college entrance exam system and college administrators. They have also asked she be fined $20,000. 'Her efforts weren't driven by need or desperation, but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity,' prosecutors said last week in a sentencing memo filed in court. Authorities said Huffman coordinated with Singer to convince test administrators to give her daughter extended time to take the SAT in 2017, citing a 'learning difference.' She arranged to have her daughter take the test at a center affiliated with Singer, where her answers were altered to boost her score by about 400 points, prosecutors said. 'She could buy her daughter every conceivable legitimate advantage, introduce her to any number of useful personal connections, and give her a profound leg up on the competition simply because she would be applying to college as the daughter of a movie star,' prosecutors said in the sentencing memo. 'But Huffman opted instead to use her daughter's legitimate learning differences in service of a fraud on the system, one that Huffman knew, by definition, would harm some other student who would be denied admission because Huffman's daughter was admitted in his or her place, under false pretenses.' Attorneys for Huffman have asked Talwani to sentence her to one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine, calling the incident out of character and noting her remorse for her part in the admissions scheme. 'In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,' Huffman wrote in a letter to the court filed last week. 'I honestly didn't and don't care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. That sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn't depend on her math skills. I didn't want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning doing what she loves because she can't do math.' Huffman is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in the federal courthouse in Boston. Huffman was one of more than 50 people, including 34 parents, to be charged earlier this year with participating in the large-scale admissions scheme. Prosecutors said the parents involved paid Singer to bribe college coaches and rig test scores to get their children into elite universities. The scandal also led to the arrests of “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, both of whom are fighting the charges. The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared to other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 to get their children into elite schools by having them labeled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play. Authorities say it's the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, with a total of 51 people charged. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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