from the NY Times:
“For years, congressional allocations to the National Weather Service have all but flatlined. Meanwhile, the cost of storm recovery has skyrocketed. In the 20 years leading up to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the United States suffered 133 weather disasters that exceeded \$1 billion in damages, for a total of over \$875 billion. Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in the nation’s history, came with a price tag of an estimated \$65 billion.
In the months after Sandy, the Department of Commerce issued a service assessment report, which evaluated the National Weather Service’s response to the storm. Its authors discovered understaffed forecasting offices, a shortage of products that convey storm threats to the general public and a real need for more staff training. These findings echoed a similar report issued after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which charged that gaps in technology, service and training had complicated forecasters’ ability to do their jobs.
But rather than address these shortages, in 2013 the National Weather Service was forced to put in place a hiring freeze and cut off funding for forecaster training and equipment maintenance, part of an 8.3 percent budget cut that came in the wake of the federal government’s budget sequestration. The National Weather Service now employs 288 fewer forecasters and technicians than it did when Sandy struck.”
Given the extreme cost in both human and financial terms that the largest natural disasters incur, it seems downright insane to avoid funding the very institutions that would help us predict them early enough in advance to help minimize those costs.
Of course, foresight and politics have never mixed.