Wildfires, tornadoes, floods; Are hurricanes next?
The United States is bracing for a rough hurricane season, and budget cuts in disaster preparedness have some experts concerned.
This story was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
Hurricane season officially began on June 1, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association says that hurricane activity could be above average. There's no certainty, but according to Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, "indications are... we will have a pretty rough hurricane season."
"We may or may not" have a lot of hurricanes, Redlener stresses, but "the question is, are we more or less prepared than we have been in the past." The levees in New Orleans, for example, have been rebuilt since Katrina hit in 2005. But Redlener stresses that they've been rebuilt "only to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, which I never quite accepted or could understand, other than it's cheaper."
"The problem is if we get a really powerful hurricane," Redlener continues, "equivalent to the kind of tornado situation we saw in the last few weeks, we could be in trouble just from the levee structures again."
Budget cuts are hitting governments around the country at a time when disaster preparedness could be increasingly important. Due to factors like climate change, Redlener says, "I think in general we're moving in general toward more sever storms in the future."
The United States could actually be less prepared to deal with those disasters in the future. "I'm concerned because there have been some very significant budget cuts in general around preparedness," Redlener says, "and cuts to public health departments that are actually critical in responding to public health disaster."
One of the problems is that disaster preparedness is still not defined. "We don't actually know what we're aiming for in terms of investing in preparedness," according to Redlener. "No one's really defined what a prepared city or country actually is."
Once that is laid out, people can start making tough decisions. Redlener says, "Money is limited, and we're going to have to make some priority decisions, there's no question about that."
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.