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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott gathered Thursday with federal officials to discuss plans and preparations for the official start of hurricane season.
Gov. Scott joined the acting director of the National Hurricane Center, the secretary of Homeland Security and other officials to stress the importance of being prepared.
The governor reminded Floridians to have at least three days worth of supplies on hand, and have an evacuation plan ready with your family, should the need arise. He also touched on the challenges of fighting Zika during the rainy season, including the simple things like dumping out still water and to wear repellent.
“Last year our state was impacted by two hurricanes,” Gov. Scott said. “Hermine up in the panhandle and Matthew, which skirted our coast. We haven’t experienced anything like this in a decade. Hurricanes clearly heighten the awareness for everyone in our state for the need to be prepared.”
As Scott and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly were urging people to get ready, questions were being raised about massive budget cuts being proposed by the Trump administration for the nation’s hurricane forecasting agency.
The president’s proposed budget calls for NOAA’s spending to be slashed by 22%. Scores of Florida scientists and others across the country have written the President, urging him to reconsider the cuts.
“That to me is a very serious problem,” said Dr. Ben Kirkman of the University of Miami’s Rosentiel School of Marine Science.
Kirkman and 31 colleagues from universities around the state sent a joint letter to the Whitehouse decrying the cuts, especially to satellite programs that help predict storm paths.
“The cuts dig into all the scientific underpinning, all the research that’s required to improve our model forecast, to figure out how we’re going to use that scientific data to reduce that ‘cone of uncertainty’ that everybody’s worried about,” Kirtman said.
Governor Scott pleaded ignorance about the proposed NOAA budget cuts.
“I have not seen the details of that,” Scott said, without saying whether the cuts have him concerned.
FEMA, the agency that moves in to help after hurricanes strike, falls under Secretary Kelly’s control, and FEMA funding is proposed to be cut by nearly $700 million next year.
Kelly declined to discuss the proposed FEMA cuts in detail.
“We will make do,” is all the comment the secretary had.
To help prepare, Gov. Scott signed a sales tax holiday last week making hurricane supplies tax-free this weekend, Friday through Sunday only. Shoppers in Florida won’t be charged sales tax on items like flash lights, batteries, radios coolers and generators.
Colorado State University forecasters predicted a near-average season in the Atlantic with 14 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
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