Meteorologists with the Department of Commerce’s National Weather Service and sister agencies, such as the National Hurricane Center, continue to be impacted by ongoing shutdown of the federal government. While the weather agencies, including the National Hurricane Center, are considered “essential services” and continue to operate, meteorologists are working there unpaid with many programs suspended or cancelled until the shutdown concludes. Additionally, workers who had requested vacation time for the holidays had their time-off canceled and were ordered to work.
A meteorologist from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center expressed his dissatisfaction on Twitter. “A sad 2.5 year old and a 0.5 year old loaded into car, leaving Grandparents, to head home since my Annual Leave was cancelled due to the shutdown and I now have to work tomorrow. I apparently signed up for this. Not so sure my children did,” Tweeted meteorologist Patrick Marsh. “Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I am just frustrated I have to now travel on Christmas when those who contributed to this situation get an extra day…Although I dislike the furlough stuff, what really got/gets under my skin is that Congress went home until Thursday. It sends a powerful message about how little they value us employees. Rather than fight to fix things, they went home.”
The National Weather Service released a statement at the start of the shutdown; it says, “Due to the government shutdown, all public National Weather Service activities have been canceled or postponed until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience. The NWS (National Weather Service) will continue to provide critical forecast, watch, and warning information to protect life and property throughout the shutdown.”
This shutdown marks the third of the year.
In the January shutdown, National Hurricane Center meteorologist Eric Blake took to Twitter to express his frustration with it then. “This government shutdown makes me sad. As a federal employee, it really disrupts the mission and I just feel helpless. Almost all of the critical #hurricane training and outreach occurs for the next few months,” Blake Tweets. “The shutdown stops NHCs (National Hurricane Center’s) training work. As an example, this week we were to supposed to host about 2 dozen emergency managers across the Gulf Coast in concert with FEMA – no more. Maybe it will be made up later on – depends on how long the shutdown lasts. But the tens to hundreds of hours spent on the shutdown preps/effects are such a waste. The off-season is packed and there isn’t much time to squander.”
Because meteorologists with NOAA/NWS/NHC continue to work through the shutdown without pay, many are concerned about their personal finances. “I will be working with the promise of later pay but wondering I can make mortgage payments in a couple weeks. It will be over by then – right?”, Tweets Blake.
In past government shutdowns, including the last ones earlier this year , essential employees were paid retroactively with the “promise of pay”. It is assumed the Trump administration will follow the actions of the prior administrations and pay the meteorologists once the shutdown is resolved.
The longest government shutdown was in 1995-1996 when Bill Clinton was President. A dispute involving forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office led to a shutdown that stretched from December 5 through January 6.