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Budget cuts could threaten U.S. flood warning system
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) May 10, 2013

Surge and flooding, not wind, said biggest tropical storm hazards
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (UPI) May 10, 2013 - While U.S. coastal residents mostly fear a hurricane's winds, it's storm surge and inland flooding that are the most deadly storm hazards, a meteorologist says.

They cause 85 percent to 90 percent of deaths attributed to tropical storm, Dan Brown, a senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said Friday.

"People do not see the threat from water that storms pose; they're so focused on the wind," the South Florida Sun Sentinel quoted him as saying during a hurricane preparedness conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

While all tropical systems hold numerous dangers including winds, heavy rains, surge and tornadoes, large battering waves and rip currents are hazards people tend to overlook, he said.

"A hurricane doesn't even need to be close or make landfall to cause these,""he said.

The week-long Governor's Hurricane Conference, the largest of its kind in the nation, concluded Friday.

Budget cuts are forcing a U.S. agency to turn off hundreds of stream gauges experts say help communities prepare for floods like those that hit Iowa last month.

The federal spending cuts, known as sequester, have forced the U.S. Geological Survey to begin turning off some 150 stream gauges that monitor water levels on the nation's rivers and streams, CNN reported Friday.

And funding cutbacks at states, cities and towns struggling with their own budget crises could mean a further 200 gauges being turned off, water science experts said.

"We're trying to be very careful about which ones we say aren't going to receive funding," Michael Norris, coordinator for the National Streamflow Information Program, said.

The program, one of thousands of federal programs facing federal budget cuts, suffered a $2 million reduction in its 2013 funding.

"The last thing we want to do is put anyone's life or property in danger," said Norris, whose group has spent months deciding which gauges are the least critical.

The gauges allow the National Weather Service to forecast floods in advance.

"Without these observations, (our) forecast and warning operations will be impaired, reduced, or discontinued on a location-by-location basis," Christopher Vaccaro, a weather service spokesman, said.


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