I have seen a lot of bloviating, both on line and in the media, about the President and the altered weather map. Yes, the President lied. Yes, the President lied about something important and doubled down. So what? Just another day in America. That’s not the problem.
The problem is not about the President. It’s not even about Dorian.
It’s about the NEXT hurricane. And the one after that. The moment people start to mistrust the National Hurricane Center maps, and warnings about storms, the more likely people are to stay in place when a hurricane approaches. The more likely people are to risk their lives.
Evacuating for storms is a real pain. And on barrier islands and low lying ground — i.e., all of coastal Florida and a good bit of land in Georgia and the Carolinas, not to mention the rest of the Gulf Coast — you have to evacuate well before a storm, or you are not going to be able to leave at all. The Pinellas peninsula (where St. Petersburg, Florida sits) has, if memory serves, three roads out, one of which is unusable in high winds. For nearly a million people. A lot of folks will be able to shelter in North County, but it is still an big undertaking to get everyone safe.
When people are told a storm is on the way and it misses them or is less severe than expected (which is certainly possible — even with better forecasting methods hurricanes are fickle things) the more likely they are to stay put when they really should leave. “I rode out the last one,” they may say. (My father, who knew people who had been through Camille, said that if we were ever told to evacuate we were getting the hell out of Dodge.)
People die in hurricanes for a variety of reasons. Not all of them are swept out to sea or have a building collapse on them. In some cases, they die of pre-existing conditions such as heart disease that are exacerbated by the stress of the storm. They can lack sufficient food or clean water or electricity. (See: Puerto Rico after Maria; New Orleans after Katrina.)
By his cavalier disregard for the facts, and his putting his vanity above truth, the President has put lives at risk. So what else is new? As I said, just another day in Donald Trump’s America.