Friday, October 11, 2013

More on how the government shutdown is affecting the NWS

Additional information is becoming available regarding the scope of the shutdown impacts to the public-sector weather community. None of the info in this update comes from the Memphis NWS office and none of it runs counter to the statements made in our previous post on impacts to the NWS (which I encourage you to read if you haven't), just some additional details.

According to blogs posted by the Capital Weather Gang, who I have followed for some time and who do a great job providing insight to the weather enterprise, and Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, President of the American Meteorological Society, there are numerous effects being felt at weather offices across the nation.

The primary effect, which we have confirmed from multiple sources, is that NWS employees are working for the "promise of pay." In other words, their paychecks for October are delayed until a new appropriations bill is signed or a continuing resolution is passed. In fact, NWS employees will receive a partial paycheck in the coming days for time worked through September 30, but after that they must wait until their funding is voted on to get their next paycheck. On top of working for the "promise of pay," these dedicated employees are doing things like hiking to work through snow drifts measured in feet (or not leaving the office altogether) in South Dakota in order to make sure their job duties are carried out.

NWS office in Rapid City after a mega-dumping of snow and blizzard conditions over the weekend. Image courtesy NWS-Rapid City.
In addition, public outreach has ceased, preventative maintenance has slowed or stopped (only emergency repairs are made), the main public source of historical weather and climate data is not accessible due to the shutdown of web servers at the National Climatic Data Center, and damage surveys are disallowed other than by special exception (the Wayne, NE EF-4 late last week is an example). We won't go into detail here, but Dr. Shepherd digs deeper into the possible long-term effects of the shutdown, especially if it drags on, in his blog linked above.

The typical stereotype of the government worker is not necessarily a good one.  But given the anecdotes above, and knowing many NWS meteorologists and staff personally, I dare anyone to find a more dedicated, hard-working, and under-appreciated group of public servants. Their overall budget is minuscule compared to many behemoth agencies. Yet most of them work in a field they truly love, with service to the community on the forefront of their minds. Their job is to protect life and property from elements that are beyond anyone's control and they are the best in the world at it!

References:

Unpaid Rapid City NWS staff slept at the office as blizzard totals hit 58 inches, MPR News15 ways the Federal shutdown is hampering the National Weather Service, Capital Weather Gang blog
Implications of the "Shutdown" on the Weather Community and Beyond, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd
"No clocking out during storms – and no pay for weather forecasters," Omaha World-Herald

--Erik Proseus, Meteorologist, MemphisWeather.net

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2 comments:

JosephAlsarraf said...

That's good of them. I'm not from Memphis, or the north. I'm from southeast Texas. Are all the NWS employees being held back from there pay? Are they going to stop giving out forecasts, or stop getting paid?

MWN/Erik said...

Yes, Joseph. Across the board employees are working without pay. They will be getting their pay, but not before the shutdown ends and funds are appropriated. And no, they will continue working, otherwise they don't get paid when the gov't does open back up.