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In tornadoes' wake, Schumer says weather satellite program faces House cuts

Less than a month after four tornadoes ripped through Western New York in one day, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is blasting a House of Representatives proposal he said would cut spending on data-gathering weather satellites.

Sen. Charles Schumer railed against proposed cuts to a weather satellite program. (Getty Images)

Schumer, D-N.Y., who made a stop Monday morning in Cheektowaga, said he believes the House's proposal to slash spending on polar satellites has the potential to threaten forecasters' ability to warn people of potentially life-threatening weather situations.

Citing reporting by The Buffalo News, Schumer also said he wants an investigation into why the first tornado warning from the National Weather Service wasn't issued until 12:36 p.m. July 20, six minutes after officials estimated a tornado touched down in Hamburg.

"The warning system is derelict now, but if we don't keep these satellites in good shape, the warning system will basically not function," Schumer said in an interview with the News.

Funding to build and maintain "next-generation weather satellites" for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the current federal budget is set at $419 million, Schumer said. The Senate's proposal would keep funding at that level, while the House is calling for spending $50 million, a cut of $369 million, the senator said.

The House proposal increases funding for "distant space exploration," he said.

The National Weather Service on Friday confirmed a fourth tornado touched down July 20 – this one happened about 1:30 p.m. in Rushford in Allegany County. The tornado – the smallest of the four – had a maximum wind gust of 85 mph, a maximum width of 50 yards and traveled about 0.9 miles, the weather service said.

The three other tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in Hamburg, Holland and Angelica. No fatalities were reported from the tornadoes, but injuries and deaths may have been higher had the tornado struck in a more populated area, Schumer said.

"This warning system must be up to snuff," he said.

The tornado in Hamburg damaged the Erie County Fairgrounds to the tune of $2.5 million to $3 million. The Erie County Fair opens Wednesday, Aug. 9.

If tornado had hit Erie County Fair after it opened, what would have happened?

Delay cleanup until Cuomo arrives? 'You're kidding, right?'

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