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NOAA, umbrella agency for Hurricane Hunters in Lakeland, bracing for budget cuts

Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 06, 2017

The umbrella agency over the Hurricane Hunters may be bracing for substantial budget cuts, according to an budget memo obtained by the Washington Post and published online late last week.

The budget proposes a 17-percent cut to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, in part to make up for estimated 54 billion extra in defense spending.

The proposal is not final, nor official, but is raising eyebrows for those who work within the agency and those who rely on it.

It’s unclear how it may impact the Hurricane Hunters, which are slated to move to Lakeland in just two months, but US Senator Bill Nelson plans to do everything possible to get in the way.

“We’re not going to allow those cuts,” he told reporters Monday morning during a visit to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City.

“Their mission is just incredible,” he said, explaining how their work is too important to start slashing the funding.

The crew of about 100 people make up the Hurricane Hunters. They used to be housed at MacDill, but just signed a near seven-million dollar deal to move to Lakeland.

Even if the Hurricane Hunters are spared under a new budget, NOAA is also over the National Weather Service and a network of satellites used to help forecasters make predictions and prepare people for extreme weather.

Shrinking the agency could have major implications around Florida and the country.

“Something suggested like that is just not going to happen,” Nelson said. “And I’ve got a say on it because Congress passes the appropriations.”

NOAA and the Hurricane Hunters have not returned repeated phone calls or e-mails for comment.

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