As U.S. prepares for another hurricane season, Congress should be embarrassed for spending on unread plan

File photo of a hurricane and power lines in the hurricane alley of the Gulf Coast north of Texas in 2003. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

With the close of the 2017 hurricane season, the multibillion-dollar program to better prepare us for hurricane strikes is set to begin once again. Hurricane declarations and tropical cyclone attribution have been important measures for understanding how the high rate of catastrophic destruction across the United States contributed to the Trump administration’s dire assessment of climate change as “dangerous and unjustifiable.” Every bit helps, and hopefully this time round, things will be different.

New government reports have identified climate change as a primary reason for the increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes over the next two decades. Those making up our government should know that.

Despite the aforementioned warnings, Congress is considering a 1.7 billion-dollar funding bill, set to pass Friday, to support planning and purchasing equipment for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program (HFIP). The HFIP — a 5-year initiative rolled out in 2016 — will include the acquisition of a real-time forecast model which, if fully funded, will bring America a step closer to better weather forecasting. Through strengthening existing weather models and replacing outdated ones, the HFIP aims to improve hurricane forecasting by 15 to 20 percent. With the help of more advanced models, more insight could lead to making accurate and timely forecasts for hurricanes which can help people at risk of severe weather.

Few headlines this month have demonstrated the benefits of storms as fierce as Hurricane Harvey more than the below. In the small town of Greensburg, Kansas, a family and staff of a church lost their lives as the church roof was blown off and the minivan they were in was pushed into a street. No one at the church survived the storm. Without enough time to take cover, men volunteers at the church slowly formed a lifeboat to save the congregation, who were strapped to their chair. Katrina and the death of Jayme Biendl, an 11-year-old who lost her life in the storm, add to this sobering story.

Such tragic events are why society must, through much-needed investment, prepare for what is scientifically certain — more frequent and intense storms over the next 15 years. Washington needs to keep this goal in mind as they weigh the HFIP’s proposed funds in light of the continual crisis of addiction in this country.

Let’s be clear: Using unread documentation to justify wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to build a backup instrument for a weather satellite is a waste of this nation’s resources. We want a healthier and more stable future. Florida and Texas will be hit hard this coming year. Let’s be sure Congress puts those funds into scientific breakthroughs that will enhance our ability to mitigate, respond to and recover from hurricanes.

Let’s be clear: Using unread documentation to justify wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to build a backup instrument for a weather satellite is a waste of this nation’s resources.

The death and devastation of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Harvey and Irma has made it hard to look back on a short decade-long period in which policymakers did little to effectively monitor and prepare for severe weather. To date, less than one in 10 anticipated storms has been classified as “extreme.” Former President Barack Obama declared the crisis in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), posting it on the White House web site and immediately drawing attention from federal officials. In 2001, Bill Clinton’s OMB posted a page to the website which included similar assessment of the status of preparedness for future severe weather events. Hurricane season is upon us again, and we should all do our part to help this government live up to the agencies that serve us.

Dr. Brett Deering is director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Miami.

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