An Oklahoma congressman has proposed legislation that would make the protection of people and property a priority for federal weather forecasters and extend the lead time for tornado warnings.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak has expressed his support for the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act (H.R. 2413), sponsored by Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma), which would establish the Tornado Warning Extension Program. The resolution is aimed at funding a research program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to extend the lead time for tornado warnings beyond one hour.
H.R. 2413 has advanced from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology with strong, bi-partisan support.
It requires NOAA to prepare a program plan detailing the research and development activities and the associated budget resources necessary to successfully realize the tornado forecasting improvements.
A comprehensive amendment to the resolution developed by Bridenstine, Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Ranking Minority Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) further encourages NOAA to utilize private sector resources when implementing its new priority of protecting people and property from severe weather systems.
The centerpiece of this bill is a codification and expansion of NOAA weather research activities, specifically directing the agency to place “priority emphasis on development of more accurate and timely warnings and forecasts of high impact weather events that endanger life and property,” according to an announcement released by Bridenstine’s office.
It directs expansion of NOAA weather research activities to improve weather-related technologies and develop highly accurate warnings of high impact weather events, Oklahoma Commissioner Doak said..
In addition, H.R.2413 contains provisions aimed at closing the performance gaps between NOAA’s weather forecasting computer models and those of other nations, Doak’s announcement said.
The bill also clarifies that NOAA is not prohibited from obtaining weather data through contracts with commercial providers, and directs NOAA to prepare a report assessing the range of commercial opportunities for obtaining cost-effective space-based weather observations, according to Brindenstine.
“Protection of life and property is of utmost importance during severe weather events such as the ones we see in our state,” Doak stated. “This bill is significant to improving severe weather detection and promoting safety not only in Oklahoma, but across the country.”
Tornadoes in Oklahoma last year not only caused significant loss of life but also contributed to its designation in 2013 as the costliest state for natural disaster related insurance payouts, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Insurance payments for losses stemming from the deadly May 2013 tornadoes that hit Moore and El Reno, Okla., have risen to between $1.1 billion and $2 billion, Doak told Insurance Journal in early February. Around 100,000 claims have been filed since May 19, 2013, he said.
Oklahoma hosted the third national tornado summit in Oklahoma on Feb. 10 and 11. The summit brought together insurance industry professionals, emergency managers, policymakers and weather experts to learn from each other how to better prepare for and recover from tornadoes and other natural catastrophes.