The media arm of the Bangor Publishing Company edited the headline of a story on Wednesday to make it less critical of Maine Gov. Janet Mills.
“Janet Mills’ false criticism of wind storm forecast ‘surprised’ forecasters,” read the headline of reporter Michael Shepherd’s story in the outlet’s email newsletter. (emphasis added)
The story centered on Gov. Mills claim that the National Weather Service (NWS) failed to give her administration forewarning of the seriousness of the Dec. 18 storm.
However, at some point after the email blast went out, the original headline was edited for the outlet’s website to remove any indication that the governor had spread falsehoods.
Mills claimed at her first post-storm press conference, which came more than 36 hours after widespread power outages left half of Maine without electricity, that her office was not warned about the severity of the storm.
The claim, which served to shift blame away from the Mills Administration, drew a harsh rebuke from NWS Spokesperson Susan Buchanan.
“The powerful low pressure system that hit Maine on December 18 with heavy rain and high winds was well forecasted and communicated in advance, including the potential for rainfall totals of 4-6 inches with localized areas receiving higher amounts,” Buchanan said in a statement.
“Forecasts and briefings provided to local and state officials began on Friday, December 15. NWS alerted for a significant weather event that would cause widespread flooding, given that the soils were already saturated from previous rain and snowmelt from the mountains would exacerbate the flood threat,” Buchanan said.
“The first flood watch and high wind watch were issued on Saturday afternoon, two full days before the storm,” she said. “The state of Maine hosted a coordination call Sunday afternoon with NWS forecast offices in Gray and Caribou briefing on the expected flood, wind and coastal flood impacts. Rain began on Sunday night, and by Monday morning NWS offices had issued flash flood warnings, areal flood warnings, and river flood warnings, which remained in effect through the middle of the week.”
“The National Weather Service and our public safety partners in emergency management and broadcast media urged communities to prepare in advance for the hazards that were likely to occur on Monday, December 18,” she said. “NWS forecasters informed local and state officials in the days leading up to the storm through daily email briefing packages, direct phone conversations, and virtual city and statewide briefings.”
Mills has yet to publicly acknowledge the NWS comments or admit that her criticism of the NWS was false.
The Bangor outlet, often regarded as the least left-wing of Maine’s traditional media outlets, never shied away from accusing former Republican Gov. Paul LePage of spreading falsehoods.
“False Paul LePage claim shows…” began one Aug. 16, 2022 headline for a story, also written by Shepherd.
The original headline was still embedded in a special graphic viewable on the website Wednesday afternoon.