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Sequestration cuts could impact hurricane response

1:44 PM, May 29, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The 2013 hurricane season is now just a few days away.

A potential problem could be the amount of money available to keep people safe.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed to First Coast News it lost 7% of its budget due to sequestration budget cuts. That boils down to a loss of $192 million. The cuts also affect the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

To make up for the loss, NOAA said it is instituting a hiring freeze and cutting funding for grant and research programs. Furlough days for all employees are also being issued this summer during the height of hurricane season.

However, NOAA said the furloughs can be cancelled if a storm is expected to make landfall in the U.S. The agency also said they will have accurate staffing at the most critical times.

Still, Florida Governor Rick Scott is concerned.

Scott went on the record with National Public Radio saying he worries the cuts will hurt the agency's ability to be prepared before disaster strikes.

Meanwhile, preparations for hurricane season are well underway at the local level.

First Coast News has teamed up with the City of Jacksonville, the Northeast Florida chapter of the American Red Cross, WJCT Public Radio and the Florida Times-Union to release a 2013 Emergency Preparedness Guide.

It becomes available June 2 inside that day's edition of the Florida Times-Union. First Coast News also has a complete section of this website dedicated to emergency preparedness.

Mayor Alvin Brown said this week being ready for the hurricane season is key.

"What a difference a year makes. Last year we had to cancel Jazz Fest on the Sunday. And there was a lot of flooding, 50-thousand people without power. So I just want to make sure our citizens are prepared," he said.

Governor Rick Scott said Wednesday what concerns him most are planned furloughs to the Florida National Guard.

"It can put us at risk when we do have a hurricane. I hope we don't, so I've constantly asked the federal government. No different than when I asked about when they were doing the FAA furloughs," he said.

First Coast News

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