At least 24 tornadoes touched down in the South and Midwest over the last two days. Last week, more than 20 tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, with an EF4 touching down in Perryville, Missouri. Massachusetts experienced its first-ever tornado in February, and Minnesota set a record yesterday for the earliest reported tornado in a calendar year.
There have been at least 250 confirmed tornadoes in 2017 that have claimed the lives of 24 people, wreaking havoc on communities that will have to find a way to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
As we’re witnessing now, tornadoes can happen throughout the year, even during the winter. But sadly, we haven’t even reached peak tornado season which occurs from April through June.
Natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes are increasingly putting a strain on the federal budget. And with an increase in temperature due to climate change, there will be more extreme weather the federal government will have to pay for.
Which is why it’s so odd that the Trump administration has proposed a 17 percent budget cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of our leading climate science agencies, and an 11 percent budget cut to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency which provides disaster relief. It’s all part of the president’s effort to find money to build a multi-billion dollar border wall.
NOAA would experience cuts in research funding, education, coastal management and resilience, and most importantly its satellite programs, which provides 90 percent of information for weather forecasts. The same satellites that alerts us when extreme weather is on the way, guides commercial ships and monitors crop health.
FEMA helps local, state and tribal governments prepare for emergencies through training and response strategies. Imagine the strain that would be put on community preparedness and recovery efforts if there is a significant cut to its federal budget. It would mean that states that experience big, costly natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy may not have the ability to tap into federal dollars to coordinate a response or rebuild.
According to NOAA, the number of severe weather events that cause at least $1 billion in damage is on the rise. In 2016, there were 15 weather and climate disaster events that exceeded $1 billion in damage from drought, wildfire, flooding, a tropical cyclone and multiple severe storms.
FEMA spends billions of dollars on general relief and flood insurance. The Department of Agriculture spends billions on crop insurance. The Army Corps of Engineers spends billions on flood control. Why are we cutting budgets for catastrophic events we know are on the rise?
Our government should be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to emergency preparedness. Investing in resilience programs through green infrastructure projects will allow communities, especially coastal communities, to be better prepared and withstand damage from natural disasters.
It’s shortsighted and irresponsible for this administration to significantly defund agencies that are crucial to a number of industries and the livelihood of Americans. Unfortunately, history tells us that everybody starts caring until it's too late.
Environmental advocate. Communications professional. Sports fan. I love television and press conferences.