Hurricane hunter program could face budget cuts

By MATT SEDENSKY | August 26, 2011 | 3:50 PM EDT

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The hurricane hunter planes that feed forecasters vital information from the eye of storms like Hurricane Irene could face big funding cuts.

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Florida, wrote House Speaker John Boehner on Friday asking for a reversal of proposed cuts to the program. The flights take off from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Castor says that could mean cuts in the number of flights and personnel, which would in turn affect the accuracy of forecasts. Castor says Hurricane Irene, which is threatening the East Coast, could be a "wake-up call" that officials should not reduce the hurricane hunter budget from $29 million to $17 million.

Hurricane hunter planes fly directly into the storm to take measurements used in forecasts.