Forecasters say the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins Thursday, could bring "above-normal" storm activity. Residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are making sure they have supplies and plans in place if a storm hits.
But this year there are concerns that the federal agencies in charge of dealing with disasters — from providing emergency relief to rebuilding homes — may be less prepared than usual and could be hampered by proposed budget cuts.
Last year provided a reminder of why many say federal assistance is vital. In October, Matthew slammed into Haiti as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, killing more than 500. After that, it swept up the U.S. Atlantic coast, pounding communities like St. Augustine, Fla., where beaches were washed away and much of the downtown was underwater.
Eight months after the storm, St. Augustine and surrounding communities are still recovering, spending millions to rebuild the coastline. The emergency manager of St. John's County, Linda Stoughton, says federal support for that effort is vital. "We understand disasters are local," Stoughton says. "We responded. But we are going to need federal funding to make St. John's County back to where it was."
This year, key federal agencies that state and local governments and the public depend on still don't have leaders. Nearly five months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, NOAA, the agency that oversees the government's weather forecasting, is still without an administrator, as is the agency that responds to disasters, FEMA.
At least in the case of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a nomination is pending. The Trump administration has named the former head of Alabama's emergency management agency, Brock Long, to the position.
The real problem remains that Trump wants to cut billions from FEMA disaster aid response and preparedness programs and eliminate the government's flood insurance and mapping program entirely. NOAA too would see its entire climate monitoring budget zeroed out along with cuts to weather station budgets and the National Hurricane Center.
It'll be bad right now if the US gets nailed by a big storm this year, or by a string of tornadoes. It will only get worse in the future with more intense and dangerous storms fueled by climate change and less of a budget to deal with them.
But this is what America voted for. Enjoy, coastal red states!