Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on Congress to spend $33 million on upgrading the systems that help forecasters predict extreme weather after the remnants of Hurricane Ida caught local officials off guard earlier this month.
“What we saw with Hurricane Ida and what we see more and more is that storms change rapidly, varying in course, rainfall and other factors — and we need to keep up with all of it in real time,” said Schumer (D-NY) in a statement.
The senator is also seeking $3 million in federal funds for upgrades to the Empire State’s system to allow for “sharper” forecasts.
“The bottom line is that without upgrades and federal investment, New York’s forecasting ability could become partly cloudy when it needs to be clear and concise,” he said.
The funding would upgrade New York’s 126 observation stations across the state known as a mesonet — a system that provides information to forecasters, meteorologists and emergency management officials to help reduce the blow delivered by extreme weather events. The state has at least one station in all 62 counties, including in the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens and East Hampton, according to Schumer’s office.
“[T]hey need to be maintained and upgraded to keep pace with the new challenges posed by climate change and how those challenges make it critical to be as precise as possible with forecasting,” he said.
In addition, Schumer is requesting $30 million dollars for the equivalent system that monitors storms in the entire country known as the National Mesonet Program.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand supported Schumer’s move.
“As we say with Henri and Ida, once in a generation storms are now happening more than once a season,” Gillibrand (D-NY) said in a statement Sunday.
“Funding for our national weather systems and hyper-local weather monitoring systems enables accurate local forecasting that lets New Yorkers know whether they need to evacuate their home, and it also helps local emergency managers know who to evacuate and where exactly to focus their preparation and response efforts.”
The push for upgrades comes after unexpected heavy rainfall hit New York and New Jersey on Sept. 1, days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in the south. Eight New Yorkers trapped in their basement apartments in Queens and one man in his car in the Bronx were among those killed.
At least 52 people have been confirmed dead after Hurricane Ida tore through the Northeast.
New York incurred at least $50 million in damage from Hurricane Ida, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Mayor Bill de Blasio faced criticism over why the city was underprepared for the deadly downpour — even though the National Weather Service warned of “life-threatening flash flooding” more than five hours before Ida began pounding the area.
In the days following the deluge, the mayor and other politicians vowed to enact mitigations aimed at preparing New York for future extreme weather events.
On Monday, President Joe Biden greenlit New York’s major-disaster declaration that Hochul requested, a move that will funnel federal relief dollars to local governments and homeowners ravaged by Ida.
On Tuesday, the City Council will hold an oversight hearing to investigate why the mayor and the MTA were caught flat-footed by the storm.