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Schumer, Gillibrand seek $33 million to improve weather forecasting stations

Nassau County police on Sept. 2 clear abandoned

Nassau County police on Sept. 2 clear abandoned cars on Hillside Avenue in Herricks that was flooded by rain from Tropical Depression Ida. Credit: Howard Schnapp

New York's two senators promised a "big push" to upgrade regional networks of weather stations used in some states to predict the strength and path of major storms.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking at a news conference Sunday in Manhattan, said the network used by New York, known as a mesonet and based in the University at Albany, is outdated.

Schumer made the push after Tropical Storm Henri and Tropical Depression Ida caused major flooding on Long Island and across New York and the tristate region.

New upgrades are needed so the system can monitor particles higher in the atmosphere, Schumer said.

Schumer said he is pushing to include $33 million in funding for upgrades to New York's mesonet and other networks across the United States as part of the $3.5 trillion federal budget bill.

The University at Albany would receive $3 million in funding, Schumer's office said. There are 126 mesonet stations across the state, according to the University at Albany.

The monitoring would help meteorologists to more precisely predict storm strength and rainfall levels, officials said. Schumer said he would also seek to add more monitoring stations throughout the state.

Schumer and Gillibrand said climate change makes it critical that storms be predicted as accurately as possible.

The National Weather Service issued several warnings and alerts days and hours before the remnants of Ida hit the metropolitan area, saying "life-threatening" flash floods were possible.

But Schumer said: "Everyone knows we did not understand the full extent of the storm. Predictions fell short and that created all kinds of problems."

If upgrades to the mesonet were in place, "we might've had a better idea at the amount of torrential rain that was coming down in Ida and Henri," Schumer said.

There were more than 45 fatalities the tristate region from Ida's flooding.

"There was not an adequate warning and preparation, and we saw the dire consequences that happened," he said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said at the news conference: "Our technological capacity has to keep pace with the needs of global climate change.

"So these ideas we're putting forward … will allow people to plan, to have local emergency, precautions put in place in advance, and that will make the difference between life and death for many New Yorkers and many Americans."

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