US denies threats to sack weather agency employees
Washington; The US Department of Commerce has denied that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had threatened to fire top employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over a row concerning hurricane Dorian.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Ross threatened to fire top NOAA employees after the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted on September 1 that "Alabama will not see any impacts from Dorian", rebutting President Donald Trump's claim that the state would be hit "harder than anticipated", Xinhua news agency reported.
"Secretary Ross did not threaten to fire any NOAA staff over forecasting and public statements about Hurricane Dorian," the Separtment said in a statement on Monday.
The NOAA is a division of the Commerce Department, and the National Weather Service is a part of the NOAA.
Trump has spent days defending his version of the path of Hurricane Dorian since the controversy erupted.
He displayed a large map in the Oval Office on September 4 showing Alabama was potentially in Dorian's path, but US media reports said that the map had been altered with a black Sharpie pen.
The NOAA said in a statement on September 6 that the map "demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama".
It added that the Birmingham National Weather Service's September 1 tweet "spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time".
Dorian hit the Bahamas on September 1 as a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 50 people in the island country as of Monday evening, according to the Bahamian government.
It then swiped the coasts of US states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.