Hurricane Research Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

October 2, 2006

U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, R-Fla., has introduced bipartisan legislation to implement a national hurricane research initiative designed to better research, predict and prepare for hurricanes.

Martinez crafted the proposal working from recommendations presented by the National Science Foundation’s new draft report entitled, Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative.

The bill’s original cosponsors include Senators Mary Landrieu, D-La., David Vitter, R-La., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“Hurricanes, by far, cause more economic damage to a more widespread area than any other natural disaster. This bill takes sound, scientific recommendations and builds from them a foundation for better, more coordinated research,” said Martinez. “Given the enormous cost associated with hurricanes, we ought to better coordinate research and information about hurricane prediction, observation, the vulnerability of structures and how we might develop better evacuation plans.”

The National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI) takes the general recommendations of the National Science Board and seeks to coordinate the expertise of the nation’s science and engineering capabilities through a multi-agency effort focused on improving a better understanding of hurricane prediction, intensity, and mitigation on coastal populations, infrastructure, and the natural environment.

“Florida and other Gulf Coast states have a lot at stake and every hurricane season we have a lot of unknowns. Better, more intense, and more coordinated research can help us better prepare in the future,” said Martinez.

The legislation puts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in charge of crafting specific strategies for implementing and overseeing the NHRI. The bill sets out specific goals for NHRI research including predicting hurricane intensification, storm surge, rainfall, and inland flooding, improved observations, assessment of vulnerable infrastructure, interaction of hurricanes with engineered structures, improved computational ability, improved disaster response and recovery, and evacuation planning.

The proposal also would establish a National Infrastructure Data Base in order to provide a baseline for developing standards, measuring modification and loss, and establishing public policy to better understand hurricanes and tropical storms.

The legislation was unveiled in conjunction with the release of a new draft report by the National Science Board entitled, Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative. The National Science Board is a 24-member independent advisory body to the President and Congress on matters of national science and engineering policy.

Since December 2005, a Science Board task force has been studying the issue of nationwide investments in hurricane science and engineering. Its report warns that relative to the tremendous damage and suffering caused by hurricanes, the federal investment in hurricane science and engineering is insufficient, and as the Board document exclaims, “Time is not on our side.”

Source: Sen. Mel Martinez

Topics USA Catastrophe Natural Disasters Legislation Hurricane Politics

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