Raindrops keep falling and the next thing you know the neighborhood is full of water and deputies in boats are yelling "evacuate!" It's always good to get that warning sooner than that. The sequestration as illustration of America's legislative face-plant got attention today (Thur Apr 25) from the Associated Press. Its prolific science writer Seth Borenstein highlighted an announcement from the US Geological Survey that budget cuts appear poised to force closure of many stream and river gauges nationwide. About 100 of these these automated sentinels are located where they are vital if communities, farmers, and others are to get warning of flooding and thus reduce loss of life and of property damage. Particularly in the flatter parts of this country where flood plains can reach well into or clean across riverside towns, not to mention ruin crops on vast expanses of bottomland, this is the kind of news that might make many members of Congress, lots of them in red states, think again about digging their heels in too hard against budget compromise. (Or, that might generate suspicion that the tricky Democratic pols in DC are deliberately closing these instruments for maximum political leverage or to punish people for hating taxes or something crazy like that. Such times we live in…).
The AP's story will undoubtedly be the one that reaches most of the public first. Borenstein gets it together in fast, succincts wire style with a few quotes and examples of specific places that might be in danger, enough to give the story some meat.
It is instructive on how the news business works to see how the essence had already begun to get around in smaller and local outlets. One is unsure what tipped reporters off, but (see Grist below) the USGS does have a website up providing most of the basics.
Other, earlier stories: USGS Public Advisory ; Those alert to specialized spellings should note that at the geological survey it's not a stream gauge. It is a streamgage or just a plain gage.
- Wyoming News (April 8) Trevor Brown: Federal Cuts to Shut Down Wyoming Flood Detectors ; The comments show that while the specifics vary, Wyoming readers know politics when they smell it.
- KBZK (April 22, Bozeman, MT) meteorologist Mike Heard : USGS to discontinue stream gauges due to sequestration;
- Chicago Tribune (April 18) Robert McCoppin: Gauges Used to Anticipate Flooding Endangered by Cuts;
- Aitkin Age (April 19, Minnesota) – Sheriff Scott Turner: Eleven Feet High and Rising ; Sheriff knows how to riff off of Johnny Cash. Except should'a wrote Risin'.
Grist for the Mill: USGS Announcement ; Those alert to specialized spellings and other usages may note that at the survey it is not stream guages at risk. It is streamgages or just plain gages.