If you’ve been paying attention to news about Hurricane Dorian, you probably know it didn’t hit the United States with as much fury as forecasters initially predicted, a welcome change from monster storms we’ve endured over the past decade. You also probably have a sense that Dorian damaged the Bahamas extensively, the archipelago of almost 400,000 people that is a popular vacation destination for Americans.
But, more than any of that info, you’ve probably endured a war of words over President Donald Trump’s tweet last Sunday: “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.”
The reality is that Trump’s tweet was, at the very least, based on old or less authoritative information. Trump later doubled-down on his assertion that Alabama was likely to be hit, breathing life into a debate that needed little fuel to keep going. The National Weather Service’s Birmingham office had to respond to the President’s tweet with one of their own, reassuring Alabama residents that they had little, if nothing, to fear from Hurricane Dorian.
But, as happens with so many news items that dominate television news and social media conversations, we’re missing the larger point: Dorian devastated the Bahamas, where at least 43 people have died and huge portions of the island nation remain without power or emergency services. More than 1,000 Bahamians arrived in Florida over the weekend, transported by a cruise ship from their homes. The United States has provided support for the Bahamas, with the Coast Guard rescuing 290 people and promising millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance. More help will be needed helping the country rebuild.
The President of the United States shouldn’t tweet outdated emergency-related information. But if we’re going to focus on anything from this storm, it’s that there are people in the Caribbean who need our help. With the 2020 presidential election in full swing, it’s understood that almost anything that happens on the national stage will become a topic of political discussion, but let’s put this one to rest.