Sequestration cuts to Hurricane Hunters

Published: Aug. 6, 2013 at 1:07 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 6, 2013 at 3:20 AM HST
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Colonel Craig LaFave
Colonel Craig LaFave
Senator Brian Schatz
Senator Brian Schatz

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hurricane hunters are scrambling to track threats with sequestration cuts at the worst possible time, the height of hurricane season.

The military's hurricane hunters are stretched thin by sequestration, tracking tropical storms on two fronts.

According to Colonel Craig LaFave, Commander of the 403rd Wing, "I'll be honest with you, it's a very significant cut in capability. It's a 20 percent cut. On any given day, we'll have air crew, maintainers, and support personnel on furlough."

He's juggling resources, landing in the center of a different kind of storm. Not tropical, but Political.

Senator Brian Schatz slammed sequestration in a national report on the Weather Channel, saying, "Sequestration makes no sense. It never should have been approved."

We sat down with Senator Schatz at his Honolulu office, to talk about the impact of cuts to the National Weather Service in the middle of hurricane season.

Sen. Schatz said, "We have seen a couple of weather events. Fortunately, there hasn't been any serious property damage or loss of life, but we've always got to be prepared."

The fear is that we won't get the best science so forecast models we depend on may not be as accurate.

The launch of advanced satellites is on the backburner.

Meantime, crews are maxed out, exhausting manpower on two missions.

Col. LaFave says, "We're going to send three aircraft to Hawaii to fly that Eastern Pacific Storm and we're going to send three to the East to St. Croix."

Tracking a third tropical storm would be mission impossible, and trigger tough choices about which storms to fly and how often.

Schatz warns, "Storms don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican they just come."

He's optimistic that congress will reach a budget deal after summer break, citing growing support to end sequestration across the aisle.

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