Tsunami warning system set for cut in federal budget proposal
The system that detects approaching tsunamis at sea and tells authorities when to warn or evacuate coastal residents is in for a cut under the federal budget proposed by the White House.
The proposal comes less than a year after a tsunami resulting from the March 2011 earthquake in Japan reached all the way across the Pacific Ocean to California. That tsunami was underwhelming at Ocean Beach, but it washed a man to his death in the water near Crescent City, smashed the Santa Cruz harbor and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage along the California coast. In Chile, which experienced its own deadly tsunami in February 2010, tsunami warnings and response are now playing into the country’s 2013 presidential election.
The proposed cuts in the United States would take $4.6 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, $1 million of it in the program that operates a network of buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
San Francisco is vulnerable to inundation or flooding from tsunamis along much of its waterfront, including stretches of the Richmond District and Sunset District near Ocean Beach.
NOAA representatives say the cuts will mean it might take a bit longer to repair broken buoys, but the system will still operate and the cuts won’t have any impact on public safety.
That reassurance doesn’t seem to be holding much water among some tsunami scientists.
“Given how little money it is and the concerns about human life, this is a poor place to cut,” Scripps Institution of Oceanography geophysics professor John Orcutt told the Mercury News.
The Mercury News reports that 10 of the 39 existing buoys are already out of service, even before any cuts to the program.
The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program also would be hit by the proposed cuts to NOAA. This program has paid for efforts to warning the public about tsunami hazards, point out evacuation routes and strengthen state warning systems.
More about tsunamis, including the U.S. warning system and information on how to prepare for one, is available at the NOAA tsunami website.