CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – In the wake of four tornadoes touching down in Western New York this summer, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spent part of Monday morning in this area making his case for why federal lawmakers should block plans to slash funding for the country’s weather satellite program.
The House approved $369 million in cuts to the satellite program in its version of the budget. The Senate will consider the measure during its own budget talks in September.
The House budget would take the money from the satellite program to help pay for NASA’s Planetary Science Program, but Schumer says that’s a poor choice. “It’s nice to land on Mars,” he said, “but let’s look after Earth first.”
Speaking in front of the local National Weather Service office, Schumer warned cuts to the weather satellite program, which generates 85 percent of the data used in weather forecasts, could have devastating consequences when it comes to life-saving early warnings for severe weather events.
“Down to the minute forecasting can mean the difference between an evacuation or an all clear and that’s why it makes absolutely no sense to cut this key federal resource that goes to upgrading, repairing and replacing our essential weather satellites,” he said. “The information we gather thousands of miles above us creates safety on the ground in Western New York.”
Schumer pointed out that there was a significant delay in getting the emergency alerts to people’s cell phones in Western New York in the case of the recent tornadoes.
“I can tell you, people didn’t get warning, because there were people walking the Eternal Flame trail when the tornado passed overhead and they didn’t know about it until afterwards because of the technological issues,” agreed Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who joined Senator Schumer and other local leaders Monday morning.
Schumer says this has been a national issue, and he called on the National Weather Service to figure out what’s been going wrong, why, and what can be done to fix the problem in the future.