According to the National Weather Service, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center got the word out and the sirens roaring in Hawaii less than ten minutes after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan Friday.
That quick response for America's island state could be hampered if Congressional Republican leaders get their way. According to the union representing workers at the National Weather Service, a Republican budget proposal that failed last week would have reduced National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spending by more than 20 percent. The National Weather Service and it's PTWC are both a part of NOAA. The proposed cuts could be steeper for 2012, including furloughs at the PTWC and other first response cutbacks according to Climate Progress.
Even before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on Friday, the Hawaii Star Reporter ran a piece with a shockingly ominous headline: "Cuts Could Kill, Union Says."
The union representing National Weather Service workers says budget cuts proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives could jeopardize public safety and increase the severity of disaster losses in Hawaii.
"People could die. ... It could be serious," said Barry Hirshorn, Pacific region chairman of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.
Unsurprisingly, Hawaiians appear the most concerned about tsunami preparedness. The Hawaii Reporter also covered the cuts citing union projections.
The union says it anticipates a $125 million cut to the National Weather Service’s budget for the remaining six months of the fiscal year. During fiscal year 2010 there was $41 million of funding for the tsunami research and warnings.
Mother Jones has some dire reporting with a national perspective based more experts and government employees who say these cuts could exacerbate catastrophe.
All of that said, these cuts haven't happened, and the alarms so far are raised mostly by employees directly affected. As a nation we certainly don't want to tighten our belts to the point of unpreparedness, but the PTWC may well have enough money to continue to make accurate and timely warnings with a 20+ percent budget reduction. It doesn't seem Hawaiians feel that way though.
Image: NOAA Center for Tsunami Research