It’s the Worst Storm Season in Years, and the Top Forecasting Posts Are Still Vacant
Florida is preparing to get hammered by the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, but the National Hurricane Center doesn’t have a director, and Trump has yet to nominate anyone to lead the agency that oversees the center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The hurricane hit the Caribbean island of St. Martin Wednesday where Trump has an 11-bedroom waterfront estate, Le Chateau des Palmiers, that is on the market for $16.9 million.
The French government said it had delivered food and water to St Martin and St Barthelemy. Power was knocked out on both islands.
Five of the last six presidents nominated an administrator to lead NOAA by September. Former President Barack Obama announced he was going to nominate Jane Lubchenco before he even took office. Only George W. Bush waited until September to nominate someone to head the agency.
Trump’s proposed budget calls for cutting the NOAA by 16%. The retired chief of a team that releases hurricane warnings said the cuts could undermine progress in forecasting hurricanes.
“It’s hanging on really by a thread in terms of funding,” said James Franklin.
The National Hurricane Center predicted an above average season this year, which began June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30. Harvey’s damage could be up to $180 billion, more expensive than Katrina, which hit Louisiana in 2005.
Europeans already do better than us in forecasting hurricanes in our nation. The European model, the ECMWF, correctly predicted that Harvey would stall over Texas. The NOAA’s new, experimental HMON bombed, putting Harvey in Mexico at the height of the hurricane.
On Wednesday, the European model was predicting a “most likely” landfall for Irma on the south Florida coast while other models had Irma out to sea along the East Coast. The National Hurricane Center revised its landfall track, switching it slightly to the east.
Hurricane predictions matter because they save lives. In 1900, a hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, killed 6,000 to 12,000 people, the deadliest hurricane in our nation’s history. At least 70 people died in Harvey, which came ashore in a rural stretch of the Texas coast.
Irma hit the northeast Caribbean islands on Wednesday. Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, told reporters that Barbuda, a tiny island with a population of 1,600, was “totally destroyed.” Winds ravaged the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday, and the eye of Irma passed just north of Puerto Rico.
Two more hurricanes, Jose and Katia, have formed. The height of the hurricane season is here, but our nation has a leader who doesn’t believe in better funding to help predict hurricanes or appointing a head of the agency that coordinates weather forecasting.
Featured Photo: Hurricane Irma photographed from the International Space Station (NASA photo).