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NOAA employees may be furloughed 4 days during the 2013 hurricane season

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 8:57 PM GMT on April 15, 2013

National Weather Service and NOAA employees may be forced to take up to four unpaid days off this summer, thanks to the the government-wide sequestration cuts which have forced an 8.2% budget cut. NOAA has attempted to respond to the mandatory budget cuts by freezing hiring and cutting back on staff travel and training. However, this has not been enough. In an email sent to all NOAA employees on April 15, Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA administrator, said: "We are entering into national consultations with the labor unions that represent some of the NOAA workforce regarding implementation of up to four days of furlough for each NOAA employee before September 30, 2013." The proposed furlough days are July 5, July 19, August 5, and August 30. NOAA employees working at 24/7 operational forecast offices at NWS and the National Hurricane Center would presumably not be furloughed on these days, if there were a major severe weather event occurring. However, I have great concerns that the furlough could cause confusion that would adversely affect critical forecasts and warnings. All of these days fall during hurricane season. The day of greatest concern to me is August 30, which falls during the height of hurricane season (recall that Hurricane Katrina hit the coast on August 29, 2005.) I'm sure that NOAA would do their best to ensure that the furlough would not interfere with critical operations during a landfalling hurricane situation, but would their best be good enough? These are uncharted waters, and its best not to be messing with nation's hurricane warning system during the peak part of hurricane season. In an interview with the Washington Post, Richard Hirn, general counsel for the National Weather Service’s labor union, the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said: “NOAA’s plans to furlough operational employees at the National Weather Service as we enter the severe storm and hurricane season is unnecessary and places the public at great risk." Here is the email sent by Sullivan to NOAA employees today:

Government budget cuts force leading meteorological training program to seek donations

Sequester may force layoffs of airport weather observers in 109 airports. Some examples: Chattanooga, Lubbock, and West Virginia.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.