Trump’s Failures on Tornadoes and Derechos

In addition to downplaying the threat of tornadoes and extreme weather, Donald Trump not only suggested that certain states get better treatment from FEMA following tornadoes but was slow to approve aid following a derecho during his term. 

After telling FEMA to give Alabama “A plus treatment” following a tornado, Trump was accused of playing favorites for states that supported him in 2016. Trump also drew criticism for signing Bibles while surveying the tornado’s damage. 

Following a derecho in the Midwest that resulted in $11 billion in damage, Trump promised to give Iowa the federal government’s full support but only approved a portion of Iowa’s recovery funding request, taking over three weeks to do so.

This document outlines the history of Trump’s climate denial on tornadoes and derechos from before and during his presidency. In 2013 Trump downplayed the threat of tornadoes. In 2019 Trump signed bibles in the wake of a tornado, and in 2020 after a derecho devastated Iowa he failed to provide full support. 

2013: Trump Downplayed The Threat Of Tornadoes

[AUDIO] Trump On Climate Change And Tornadoes: “The Biggest Tornados Were In The 1890s. […] It’s Weather. You’re Going To Have Bad Weather.” According to the Palin Update, “You look back and they were calling it global cooling and global warming and global everything, but if you look back and the biggest tornados were in the 1890s, the biggest hurricanes were in the 1860s and 1870s. It’s weather. You’re going to have bad weather. So often I watch the evening newscasts and every time there is a rainstorm some place, and then they wonder why they don’t do well, they say, ‘It’s raining here and it’s raining there,’ usually leading the program. I call it weather. Maybe there’s a little bit of change, I don’t happen to believe it’s manmade.” [Palin Update, 7/27/15]

2019: Trump Told FEMA To Give Alabama “A Plus” Treatment After 23 Died In A Tornado

2019: A Large Tornado In Alabama Left 23 Dead

March 2019: 23 People Died In A Tornado In Alabama. According to the Associated Press, “A sheriff says the death toll is now at 23 from a large tornado that devastated an Alabama community. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told WRBL-TV that ‘Unfortunately our toll, as far as fatalities, does stand at 23 at the current time,’ adding that two people are in intensive care. Jones told The Associated Press late Sunday evening that children are among the dead.” [Associated Press, 3/4/19]

Trump Tweeted That He Told FEMA To Give Alabama “The A Plus Treatment”

Trump Tweeted That He Told FEMA To Give Alabama “The A Plus Treatment” After The State Experienced Tornadoes According to a tweet posted by Donald Trump, “FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes. @GovernorKayIvey, one of the best in our Country, has been so informed. She is working closely with FEMA (and me!).” [Twitter – @realDonaldTrump, 3/4/19]

Trump’s Tweet Suggested That His Government Provided Different Grades Of Disaster Relief Treatment. According to CNN, “But the President’s visit is also drawing attention to an eyebrow-raising tweet he issued promising Alabama the “A Plus treatment,” suggesting his government perhaps provides different grades of treatment depending on the politics of the affected area. […] The tweet cast a spotlight on the Trump administration’s mixed record in responding to natural disasters and, especially, disparities in the President’s comments about devastating storms, depending on his popularity there.” [CNN, 3/8/19]

Trump Signed Bibles While Surveying The Tornado Damage In Alabama

Trump Signed Bibles While Surveying The Tornado Damage In Alabama. According to the New York Times, “President Trump offered words of comfort on Friday for Alabama’s tornado survivors, scrawling his presidential signature on some of their Bibles as they moved close to him at a church that provided shelter during the storm and was now doling out emergency aid.” [New York Times, 3/8/19]

An Alabama Baptist Minister Said He Was “Deeply Offended” At Trump Signing Bibles. According to the New York Times, “But others, including some Baptists in Alabama, said they believed Mr. Trump had been wrong to agree to sign any Bibles. ‘It’s a desecration of the Bible for he obviously pays no attention to any of it,’ said Wayne Flynt, one of the state’s pre-eminent historians and an ordained Baptist minister. ‘I was deeply offended.’” [New York Times, 3/8/19]

2020: Following A Destructive Derecho, Trump Only Approved A Portion Of Iowa’s Recovery Funding Request

2020: A Derecho Hit The Midwest, Leaving Four Dead And Resulting In Over $11 Billion Of Damage

The 2020 Derecho Resulted In Four Deaths, Dozens Of Injuries, And $11 Billion In Damage, The Most Expensive Thunderstorm Event In Modern U.S. History. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “On August 10, 2020, a line of intense thunderstorms called a ‘derecho’ resulted in four deaths, dozens of injuries, and significant damage across the Midwest, including damage locally across parts of central Indiana. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that this single day of extreme weather cost over $11 billion, making it the most expensive thunderstorm event in modern U.S. history.” [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Anniversary of 2020 Midwest Derecho, Accessed 6/10/24]

Trump Never Left The Airport To Survey The Derecho’s Damage When He Visited Iowa

Trump Went To Iowa More Than A Week After The Derecho And Never Left The Airport. According to a staff column by Adam Sullivan in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “More than a week after a derecho wind storm caused historic damage to Eastern Iowa, President Donald Trump finally came to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. He never left The Eastern Iowa Airport. Some Iowans criticized Trump for not coming to Cedar Rapids sooner, and for making such quick work of his visit to Iowa’s storm-ravaged second-largest city.” [Cedar Rapids Gazette – Staff Column, 8/20/20]

Trump Did Not Grant Iowa It’s Full Derecho Recovery Funding Request, Despite Promising He Would Do So

Trump Promised That Iowa Would Have The Federal Government’s Full Support After The Derecho

Trump Promised Iowa Leaders That They Would Have The “Full Support Of The Federal Government.” According to the Des Moines Register, “President Donald Trump promised Iowa leaders Tuesday that they would have the ‘full support of the federal government’ as they work to clear debris, restore power and recover from a massive windstorm that swept the state last week.” [Des Moines Register, 8/18/20

Trump Tweeted That He Approved Iowa’s “Full Emergency Declaration” Following The Derecho. According to a tweet posted by Donald Trump, “Just approved (and fast) the FULL Emergency Declaration for the Great State of Iowa. They got hit hard by record setting winds. Thank you to @SenJoniErnst, @ChuckGrassley, and Governor Kim Reynolds.” [Twitter – @realDonaldTrump, 8/17/20]

After Claiming He Signed The “Full Emergency Declaration,” Trump Only Signed A Portion Of Iowa’s Request And Was Slow To Approve Individual Assistance For Some Iowa Counties, Leaving Many Without Any Assistance

Trump Signed Only A Portion Of Iowa’s Derecho Recovery Funding Request. According to the Associated Press, “President Donald Trump said he had signed an emergency declaration for Iowa to help supply federal money to help the state recover from an unusual wind storm that struck a week ago but federal emergency management officials later confirmed he had only signed a portion of the request.” [Associated Press, 8/18/20]

A FEMA Spokesman Confirmed That Trump Approved The Public Assistance Portion Of Iowa’s Request, But Not The Individual Assistance Request. According to the Associated Press, “A Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman said in an email that Trump had approved the public assistance portion of the governor’s request totaling about $45 million covering 16 counties. That portion of the declaration provides debris removal and repair to government buildings and utilities. He did not, however, approve the individual assistance request for 27 counties that includes $82.7 million for homes destroyed or with major damage and $3.77 billion for agriculture damage to farm land, grain bins and buildings and $100 million for private utilities repair.” [Associated Press, 8/18/20]

The Individual Assistance Request Would Have Provided Aid For Destroyed Homes, Agriculture Damage, And Private Utilities Repairs. According to the Associated Press, “He did not, however, approve the individual assistance request for 27 counties that includes $82.7 million for homes destroyed or with major damage and $3.77 billion for agriculture damage to farm land, grain bins and buildings and $100 million for private utilities repair.” [Associated Press, 8/18/20]

Cedar Rapids Gazette Editorial: “Trump Crowed That He Had Approved It In ‘Full,’ But It Turns Out He Only Approved A Fraction Of Iowa’s $4 Billion Aid Package. […] And It Is Desperately Needed” According to an editorial published by the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “But there was a catch. Trump crowed that he had approved it in ‘FULL,’ but it turns out he only approved a fraction of Iowa’s $4 billion aid package. Aid for individuals and homeowners has yet to be approved, and it is desperately needed.” [Cedar Rapids Gazette – Editorial, 8/21/20]

August 20, 2020: Trump Approved Individual Aid For Only One County Out Of 27 

Over A Week After The Derecho, Trump Approved Individual Disaster Assistance But Only For Linn County. According to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, “President Donald Trump approved individual disaster assistance for Linn County on Thursday, allowing storm-stricken residents in that area of the state to apply for assistance with property damage, medical expenses and legal services. […] Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, said Trump’s approval doesn’t go far enough and called on Trump to approve individual assistance for Iowans in all of the 27 counties, such as Polk and Johnson, that Reynolds included in her request.” [Iowa Capital Dispatch, 8/21/20

September 1, 2020: Trump’s FEMA Approved Individual Aid For Ten More Counties, But Left 16 Behind

More Than Three Weeks After The Derecho, Trump’s FEMA Approved Individual Aid For Ten More Counties. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “Eastern Iowa counties, including Benton, Cedar and Tama, that sustained damage in the Aug. 10 derecho storm have been approved for the Federal Emergency Management Agency Individual Assistance Program, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday. […] Individual assistance programs and services now are available to individuals and business owners in those counties as well as Boone, Jasper, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott and Story counties. Linn County was approved for Individual Assistance on Aug. 20.” [Cedar Rapids Gazette, 9/1/20]

FEMA Determined That The Remaining Sixteen Counties That Requested Aid “Did Not Have Sufficient Damage To Be Approved For The Individual Assistance Program.” According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “Through further assessment and validation by the state and FEMA, it was determined 16 of those counties did not have sufficient damage to be approved for the Individual Assistance Program, including nine counties that withdrew from consideration: Audubon, Clarke, Grundy, Iowa, Jackson, Jones, Madison, Muscatine and Washington.” [Cedar Rapids Gazette, 9/1/20]