After last week's earthquake in the Indian Ocean, people in Indonesia responded far differently than they had seven years earlier, after another major quake: They evacuated low coastal areas to escape a possible tsunami.
As it turned out, there were no killer tidal surges for various reasons, including the type of earth movement involved. Still, the response was a welcome improvement. The 2004 earthquake and tsunami killed close to 200,000 people in Southeast Asia; many of those victims had no idea of the impending danger. And the change this time was due in good part to an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system put in place since that catastrophe.
Strange that at the same time, President Obama is proposing small but damaging cuts to the tsunami warning system in the waters surrounding this country.
Another irony is that the bigger of the two cuts is the less damaging. In its proposed budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Obama is looking to slice about $3.5 million from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, which provides grants to states for education of emergency staff, mapping and evacuation plans. That represents a fourth of that program's budget, but NOAA can continue many of these services through the National Weather Service's TsunamiReady program.