Do we really want to cut the funding of our own tsunami warning system? The GOP's proposed spending bill threatens to do just that, slashing the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by as much as $450 million. And that will effect the work of the National Data Buoy Center at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where tsunami-detecting and weather buoys are assembled and tested. The buoys are part of the DART (Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) system, which monitors buoys deployed around the world, sounding the alarm if America's West Coast is threatened.
The buoys have to stand up to extreme currents and weather conditions. But they are more likely to be damaged by humans or sharks than the elements. Their solar panels have been stolen. Large fish congregate near their nylon ropes, which fisherman have been known to cut. Fish gnaw on the ropes, eating barnacles that attach themselves to it. Drug dealers have used them to stash drugs and those lost at sea, for refuge. On-site inspection, repair or replacement, to say nothing of the shipping costs, don't come cheap, but do we want to do without a tsunami early warning system?
Someone mans the National Data Buoy Center 24/7. On March 11, shortly after the earthquake struck Japan, DART analyst Tracy Bourdreaux woke up and checked the out the data right away. Life at the Center has been busy ever since, with the aftershocks continually setting off the tsunami buoys.