On July 28th, Florida Senator Bill Nelson chaired the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s hearing on Weathering the Storm: The Need for a National Hurricane Initiative. Witnesses before the committee included a Co-Chairman of the National Science Board’s Task Force on Hurricane Science and Engineering, the Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the Program Manager for the University of Texas Center for Space Research, the President and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and the President of the Reinsurance Association of America.
I applaud the committee for having such highly respected witnesses from multiple disciplines represented at the hearing. And it was refreshing to see Senator Nelson have a conversation with the witnesses rather than spend the entire hearing time listening to prepared statements. You can view the archived webcast of the hearing as well as read the formal remarks at http://commerce.senate.gov/public/ (click on ‘Hearings’ and the ‘Weathering the Storm.’
Mention was made during the hearing that hurricanes have caused much more damage than earthquakes in recent years although the Nation’s earthquake program gets more research funding than the hurricane program. I’m thrilled to see the committee recognize this. I hasten to add that former National Hurricane Center Director Bob Sheets is on record discussing the disparity between the earthquake and hurricane programs – and Bob Sheets did that after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Our country has a well organized National Earthquake Hazard Research Program and deserves a similar commitment to hurricanes.
The National Science Board released its report titled Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative in January 2007. There have been similar reports before and after that one. I heard several people including Senators say at this week’s hearing that there is a clear need for an organized and adequately funded hurricane research program. Let us see if Congress agrees and follows through.