The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season started Thursday, June 1, in the absence of a Trump appointed leader at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to two these federal agencies, 2017 could bring “above-normal” storm activity and residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts should prepare by purchasing supplies and have a plan in place.
Last year proved to be an above-average hurricane season with many lives lost in 2016. The Atlantic season runs from June 1 through November 30, 2017, and forecasters already predict a near 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who is also a resident of Florida, said:
I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction. These forecasts are important for both public safety and business planning, and are a crucial function of the federal government.
Under the proposed budget Trump submitted to Congress, FEMA is one of the agencies that have been targeted for significant cuts. Craig Fugate, FEMA’s last director, stepped down in January as former President Obama left office. He does not believe the day-to-day operations at the agency are in any trouble, temporarily, without an appointed frontrunner.
NOAA partners with FEMA during hurricane season to help keep the public prepared and leader. The short-term situation is not the biggest challenge, according to Fugate (paraphrased):
The challenge is longer term and centers on setting the tone and direction of the agency; being able to represent the agency in the policy discussions at the highest level of government.
In addition to eliminating funding for redrawing and improving the country’s flood maps, Trump’s budget greatly affects the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program (PDM). The PDM, which has been cut more than 60 percent, is designed to implement a pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program to assist States, local communities, federally recognized Tribes and U.S. Territories.
PDM awards grants and gives opportunities for raising awareness before disaster strikes. Mitigation planning is imperative in order to reduce future losses and break the cycle of repeated damage. FEMA requires mitigation planning as pre-requisite for receiving certain types of non-emergency disaster assistance, including finance for PDM mitigation projects.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season began on Thursday with no Trump appointed leader at FEMA or NOAA. With no permanent spearhead in place to direct these conversations, many fear possible disaster. Climate policy expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Rachel Cleetus, said:
This is a very harmful approach that’s essentially saying that states are on their own, communities are on their own in terms of responding and recovering from these disasters. The reality is, states just do not have the budgets.
Under Trump’s proposed budget, the $3 billion fund for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to zero. This program steps in to help communities rebuild once FEMA has moved on. The funding has been a lifesaver for many areas hit by weather disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Matthew.
Since 2012, according to FEMA and NOAA, the 2016 hurricane season was the most active with 15 named storms, including seven storms and four major hurricanes. The eastern and central Pacific regions have also been issued seasonal hurricane predictions by NOAA. Just as the Atlantic region, they have both received warnings including a 70 percent or above projection for an above-normal season.
Regardless of the number of storms predicted to develop, it only takes one to cause major damage and seriously disrupt life. The 2017 hurricane season begins without a Trump appointed leader at FEMA or NOAA. Many are praying that Trump will appoint leaders expeditiously and that Congress will reject the proposed budget cuts.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Tampa Bay Times: Hurricane season starts with nobody in charge at FEMA or NOAA
NPR: Disaster Agency To Weather Hurricane Season With No Leader, Proposed Cuts
FEMA: Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program
Top Image by NASA’s Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team Courtesy of NASA GSFC’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Wavian’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image by Joshua Stevens Courtesy of NASA GSFC’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License