The National Weather Service had a warning in effect 16 minutes before yesterday's tragic Oklahoma tornado—but we may not be as prepared next time around, thanks to the sequester's 8.2% cut to the Weather Service, David Sirota writes on Salon. The organization representing weather service employees has warned that thanks to the cuts, it won't be able to maintain 24/7 operations at all of its offices—and overworked employees will likely miss weather warnings. "Though the last few years saw a record number of billion-dollar weather cataclysms, the weather service remains a perennial target for budget cuts," Sirota writes.
In fact, conservatives have even called for the Weather Service to be eliminated entirely. "It’s a classic self-fulfilling sophistry of the right: Ignore the positive work an agency does, keep the agency’s budget flat so that its capabilities do not keep up with the times, then cite the agency’s reduced capabilities as justification to keep cutting it," Sirota writes. But maybe yesterday's devastation will finally steer us away from that path. Consider just how bad it was—and, therefore, how much worse it could have been had our weather forecasting system been dismantled. Click for Sirota's full column.