You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Weather Service employees fear hiring freeze, tout jobs as life-savers


National Weather Service employees are touting their roles as life-savers during extreme weather events, hoping to avoid a federal hiring freeze promised by President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

A memo distributed this month to members of Congress by the NWS Employees Organization says meteorologists and some support staff are designated as “emergency essential” and should be excluded if the new administration stops filling federal vacancies.

The message also comes after the union obtained a July presentation given by NWS Director Louis Uccellini that outlines a reorganization proposal to reduce service hours at four of Florida’s six weather-forecasting offices, said Dan Sobien, president of the employees organization.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Under the plan, which NWS spokeswoman Susan Buchanan said was an early draft, only Miami and Tallahassee would remain 24-hour offices, according to Sobien. Offices in Tampa, Jacksonville, Melbourne, and Key West would no longer have overnight shifts.

The National Weather Service has been working on a deep restructuring that includes upgrades in technology and staffing changes meant to free up meteorologists to work more closely with the community and reduce overnight hours.

There are 122 weather forecasting offices nationwide. All operate around the clock.

“All offices would remain open during full-time business hours at least, and many would remain open 24 hours per day,” Buchanan said. “The proposal calls for the identification of which (if any) offices might be able to reduce or eliminate the overnight shift.”

Download The Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

She said weather-service employees have requested fewer overnight shifts because it’s “physically demanding and difficult on families.” No final decisions have been made as to what offices could act as testing grounds for the new schedules.

But Sobien is concerned that local knowledge of how weather affects specific areas will be lost if some office hours are cut back, leaving meteorologists unfamiliar with those regions to fill in the gaps.

“The forecasters in Tallahassee are just as good as those in Tampa, but they don’t know the meteorological idiosyncrasies,” Sobien said. “That’s something that local forecasters know. They can learn them, but you tend to forecast for where you live.”

Sobien said he knows the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the NWS through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has a transition briefing that was presented to Trump staffers.

“I assume they gave the transition team the whole reorganization plan and tried to give them the sell,” Sobien said. “We are hoping we can get the National Weather Service and our problems on their radar screen.”

According to the memo, there were 643 vacant National Weather Service positions as of Nov. 1, which is about 13 percent of the workforce. It also cites a 2012 National Research Council of the National Academies report that said reviews of nine major storms between 2008 and 2015 found “the ability of the NWS to protect lives during these major events was compromised due to inadequate staffing at forecast offices or river forecast centers.”

The service has struggled with filling vacant positions, including in the Miami office, which forecasts for Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties. In January, the office was operating at about 60 percent, but additional people have since been hired and it is now fully staffed.

The National Hurricane Center has five vacancies, the union said.

“We are already down a phenomenal number of people nationwide, and a hiring freeze could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for us,” said Sobien, adding that he’s not “encouraged or discouraged” about the new administration’s plans.

“It’s a blank slate, so in that sense, it’s good,” he said.

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter .



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

Woman arrested after scaling White House fence third time
Woman arrested after scaling White House fence third time

The third time was not the charm for a woman who has again tried to scale the White House fence.  Marcia Wahl, 38, of Everett Washington, attempted to scale the wrought iron fence around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, according to The Washington Post.  She was arrested and charged with unlawful entry and contempt of court, the Secret Service said...
Police search for whoever’s using poisoned hot dogs to sicken dogs
Police search for whoever’s using poisoned hot dogs to sicken dogs

Someone is tainting hot dogs with an unknown substance, wrapping the cut pieces with floss then throwing the bits in yards to sicken dogs, police say. Now investigators are trying to find the person creating the caustic cuisine for canine consumption. Lake Hallie police shared images on Facebook sent to them of the harmful hot dogs as well...
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones apologizes for spreading fake 'Pizzagate' story
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones apologizes for spreading fake 'Pizzagate' story

 Alex Jones has apologized to the owner of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria for spreading the fake story last year that linked the restaurant to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and human trafficking.  Jones, as the Austin-based host of Infowars.com, has a long history of pushing wild conspiracy theories, such as how the U.S. government...
School burglar caught with his pants down
School burglar caught with his pants down

One man will likely think twice about his plans for the day before putting on a pair of baggy pants. Things didn’t work out so well for the unidentified man who tried to climb over a fence Friday after allegedly attempting to break into some classrooms at Miles-Exploratory Learning Center in Tucson, Arizona, according to KOLD. According...
United Airlines kicks two girls off flight for wearing leggings
United Airlines kicks two girls off flight for wearing leggings

United Airlines agents forbade two teenage girls from boarding a flight to Minneapolis because they were wearing leggings, according to witnesses and The Washington Post. A third girl would have been kept off the plane as well, but she put a dress on over her leggings and was then allowed to board. The three teens were traveling on a...
More Stories