The grim pictures coming out of the Deep South are just incomprehensible to me; being someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest, we normally don't get that kind of stuff out here. My heart goes out to those who were affected by the deadly twisters, and their friends and families as well.
As with any other tragedy, both natural and man-made, we will in the coming months all debate and work on how we could have lessened the blow and better informed people. weatherdude did a fantastic job summarizing the event in his diary earlier today.
The sad fact is, more people would have died if the House Republicans had their way with the NOAA and NWS FY2011 budget.
The original House Republican FY2011 budget would have cut funding for the NWS by 14% annually. Since they were proposing this at around halftime for FY2011, this would have effectively been a 27% cut for the rest of the year.
Considering what the NWS does in terms of homeland security, their budget is pretty darned lean; about $900 million. Most of this money is spent on the 4000 or so forecasters and technicians that man the 122 offices nationwide. As a result, there wouldn't have been much "fat" to trim before they had to start cutting staffing.
So, effectively what would have had to happen, according to the NWS Employees Organization, would have been rolling month-long furlough closures of 1 out of every 4 NWS Forecast and Warning Offices across the country.
For example, the Birmingham Forecast Office may have been closed yesterday if the House Republicans had their way. Neighboring offices such as Mobile and Atlanta would have had to cover Birmingham's warning responsibilities...with no additional staff. This in addition to their own warning responsibilities.
There is no doubt this staff shortage would have reduced the average 24-minute lead time the NWS has had on their tornado warnings. This would have given families less time to head to the basement or to a tornado shelter. Sadly, the 250+ person death toll we see today almost certainly would have been quite a bit higher.
But, you know, as Speaker Boehner likes to say,
"So be it."
Need I remind everyone the Tsunami Warning Center would have been furloughed too? Just sayin'.
"So be it."
Democrats and sensible people in general need to call Republicans and Tea Party idiots out for their irresponsibility. There's a reason why 5-year olds aren't allowed to drive a car; so there's no reason why we should let 5-year old minds run our country.