Congress readies for hurricane season

Published 3:32 am Monday, June 5, 2006

By By Jo Bonner
This past week, Congress adjourned for the Memorial Day district work period. Members from both chambers took this opportunity to return home for work in their states and districts, and I took the opportunity to return to south Alabama and follow up on some of the important issues before the residents of the First District.
Last week was only a brief break from the schedule in Washington, D.C.-a schedule that will only intensify in the weeks leading up to the traditional August district work period. Of major importance is the completion of the annual appropriations bills by both houses of Congress.
Before adjourning, the House passed two more appropriations bills: the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5384) and the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (H.R. 5427).
H.R. 5384 supports our nation's farmers and ranchers and provides needed funding for important nutrition programs and public health research.
Among other things H.R. 5384, will provide the following:
H.R. 5427, which addresses the importance of energy independence and the development of alternative sources of energy, was also passed. It provides funding for research into a variety of alternative energy technologies, including biomass, hydrogen, solar, wind, and clean coal. It contained a $200 million reduction in earmarks compared to last year's bill.
Among other things, H.R. 5427, will provide the following:
As we return to Washington, D.C. this week, the House is expected to complete its work on H.R. 5441, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007.
2006 Hurricane Season
I am sure you are all aware that the 2006 hurricane season officially began last week and is expected to be another challenging year.
Each year, the Colorado State University storm forecasting team of Dr. William Gray and Philip Klotzbach releases their predictions for the hurricane season. This year they have predicted 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes. Five hurricanes could become intense with winds exceeding 110 mph.
The scientists also estimate a 47 percent chance of a major hurricane's landfall along the Gulf of Mexico coastline from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville. With these sobering projections in mind, the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been actively working to prepare for this year's season including increasing the nation's stockpiles of relief supplies.
According to FEMA, they have four times the emergency meals and ice and two and a half times the water available this year than were available prior to Hurricane Katrina. One million people could be sustained for one week with these supplies.
If the events of Hurricane Katrina have shown us anything, it's that we must change our response to disasters. We must be better prepared for hurricane season this year than we were last year-perhaps more prepared than we've ever been.
At the end of the day, we know the responsibility for emergency preparedness isn't completely up to the government. Individuals have a critical role to play. Each person has a responsibility to take steps to prepare for hurricane season and other disasters, especially if they are able.
First responders might not be able to reach every single person within the first day following a disaster. You and your family need to be prepared to sustain yourselves for up to 72 hours after a hurricane. You should have an emergency plan and an emergency kit with adequate supplies of food, water, and other essentials like a flashlight, first-aid, and medicines.
Please remember that as we head into this hurricane season, my office and I stand ready to assist you. You can reach us by calling 1-800-288-8721, and we'll be glad to do all we can to assist you.
My staff and I work for you. Let us know when we can be of service.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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