Good evening again. As some of you may already know, I have a mailing list in which I sent out e-mails with links to news articles concerning hurricanes on the web as well as new info posted on the Hurricaneville and Greg’s Weather Center web site. Two articles that I’ve mailed out recently concern to critical government agencies that are designed to prepare and assist us when a tropical storm or hurricane threatens our region. Both FEMA and the National Hurricane Center are experiencing problems of different sorts, but they are still related in that the problems are limiting each agency’s ability to help us all protect ourselves before, during, and after these storms.
On April 5, 2007, it was reported on several media web sites including WITN from Eastern Carolina that the National Hurricane Center has been hampered by inflation and budget cuts. According to the article, “inflation has eroded the center’s nearly six million dollar budget,” and “…sharp cuts have damaged an important research program and there is no replacement in sight for a crucial satellite that’s soon to fail.” Then, today, April 17, 2007, WDSU.com, which comes out of New Orleans, reported that FEMA will not have a new federal government plan for responding to emergencies such as those from tropical storms and hurricanes like that of Katrina in place for the start of the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Now this article states that, FEMA advised Congress that, “it will not meet its June 1 deadline for issuing a new national response plan,” and this advisory states that, “development of the new plan had been delayed by unexpected issues, and more time is needed to resolve them.” To summarize, if you’re a coastal resident from Maine to Texas, you better be getting ready because if you thought our state of preparedness and post storm response to Katrina was bad, it could be much worse this time.
Now it’s not surprising that FEMA is still having troubles. After all, it was that government agency and homeland security that failed to adequately respond to the aftermath of Katrina in a timely fashion. However, the problems with the NHC is also not surprising, but is very distressing. If any government agency performed admirably during Katrina, it was the National Hurricane Center under the direction of former head, Max Mayfield, who stepped down at the end of the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Budgetary problems in terms of cuts have been going on at NOAA and the NHC for a very long time, and although it is not surprising, it is also unacceptable. It amazes me how the folks at the National Hurricane Center have been able to perform so well, and continue to gradually improve forecast track accuracy when things like this have been happening. It’s analogous to someone with no legs being able to run the 100 yard dash faster than Carl Lewis.
If cuts continue, and things such as key weather satellites cannot be repaired, the National Hurricane Center will eventually encounter a storm that will cause tremendous difficulty for them, and put a large number of people at risk. Regardless of how much skill forecasters have, tools such as satellites, radar, and computer models are vital to their success. Congress and the White House should make due on their promise to prevent something like Katrina from happening again by doing whatever it takes to ensure that NOAA, and its divisions for such things as severe weather, hurricanes, and forecasting offices throughout the country are properly funded. In the meantime, residents along the United States coastline from Brownsville to Boston and beyond must begin to make adequate preparations for this upcoming season. With FEMA still having difficulties trying to reorganize, and the NHC fighting an uphill battle against budgetary and financial woes, people must become self sufficient, and be able to weather the storm this upcoming season.