White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Friday that the campaign rally was being delayed due to a “big storm” expected in Portsmouth, when forecasts from the National Weather Service showed just periodic showers and light winds likely tapering off by evening.
The National Weather Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the forecast information provided by Trump and McEnany.
Falling on the heels of the scandal involving bad forecast information during Hurricane Dorian, the New Hampshire tweet and McEnany’s statement add additional weight to concerns about how the administration interprets and communicates weather information.
Multiple National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service products showed only minor impacts from Tropical Storm Fay in coastal New Hampshire.
In forecasts for Fay issued by the National Hurricane Center between Fay’s development at 5 p.m. on Thursday and President Trump’s tweet shortly after 1 p.m. on Friday, none included Portsmouth in the storm’s path.
Although it is true that storm impacts frequently occur considerable distances outside the predicted storm path, hazardous weather was not forecast for Portsmouth.
The 11 a.m. wind forecast, released two hours before the president’s tweet, called for a 1 percent chance that winds would reach tropical storm force in Portsmouth during Saturday evening, with a zero percent chance that winds would be sustained at 39 mph or greater for at least a minute after 8 p.m.
Forecasts on Thursday had also conveyed a zero percent chance that sustained winds would reach 39 mph in Portsmouth after 2 p.m. Saturday.
That same 11 a.m. Friday forecast said that Fay’s remnants would move primarily through western Vermont overnight Friday into Saturday morning. Winds were forecast to remain below 35 mph in the heaviest downpours across western New England, with only isolated gusts up to 45 mph.
By 2 p.m., the center of any remnants was forecast to be in Canada.
The local National Weather Service forecast for Portsmouth projected to be “southeast wind [at] 10 to 15 mph” during the day on Saturday, with winds relaxing to “5 to 10 mph” from the south in the evening.
The weather system was predicted to bring periodic showers to Portsmouth Friday night and Saturday with the chance of rain falling to under 40 percent by 5 p.m. Saturday and below 20 percent by 8 p.m. Although up to 1 to 2 inches of rain was forecast, most of it was expected to fall before Saturday afternoon.
On Friday morning at 4:23 a.m., the National Weather Service office in Gray, Maine — which covers Portsmouth — issued a bulletin explaining that Fay’s remnants would pass well to the west.
“As Tropical Storm Fay is expected to pass farther west, the threat for heavy rainfall has diminished,” noted the office.
That “hazardous weather outlook,” a product issued by the Weather Service to call attention to any possibility of disruptive weather, was dropped shortly before 2 p.m., with no weather alerts in effect for Portsmouth.
A meteorological forecast discussion posted by the office at 9 a.m. noted “models continue to push [what’s] left of Fay further west, with the center moving up the Hudson [Valley] of NY. This will keep the heaviest rain to our west.”
“Saturday will see the center of Fay moving from around [Albany] to Montreal,” the discussion said.
The problematic information from the White House concerning Fay is the second such incident in the last 10 months.
In September, Trump erroneously wrote in a tweet that Hurricane Dorian was likely to severely impact Alabama. When Trump sent the tweet, the official Hurricane Center forecast showed the storm skirting the East Coast far away from Alabama.
In response to calls from panicked residents who saw Trump’s tweet, NOAA’s National Weather Service forecast office in Birmingham, Ala., tweeted that Alabama was not at serious risk from the Category 5 storm. To calm fears, not knowing Trump had stoked the concern, it tweeted: “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.”
The dissonance between the two tweets, as well as Trump’s continued insistence that he was correct about the Alabama forecast, culminated with the president displaying an NOAA hurricane forecast map altered with a Sharpie during a storm briefing in the Oval Office. The incident earned the name “Sharpiegate.”
Trump administration officials, concerned the NWS Birmingham was contradicting the president, asked the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to issue a statement justifying his remarks. The statement also rebuked the NWS Birmingham office for speaking “in absolute terms” that were “inconsistent with the best forecast products available.”
After the unsigned statement from NOAA was released, siding with Trump rather than its own forecasters, it triggered a public uproar within the agency that prompted several investigations.
The latest investigation from the Department of Commerce inspector general, released on Thursday, found the statement damaged NOAA’s reputation for issuing apolitical guidance and eroded public trust in an agency tasked with protecting life and property.
“The broader, longer-term consequence is that NOAA’s rebuke of the NWS Birmingham office could have a chilling effect on NWS forecasters’ future public safety messages, as well as undercut public trust in NWS forecasts,” the report stated.
Andrew Freedman contributed to this article.