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.

breaking news

PBSO probes Lake Worth fight involving ‘Cash me Ousside’ teen

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

Steve Harvey reacts to epic Oscars gaffe
Steve Harvey reacts to epic Oscars gaffe

Get a feeling of deja-vu while watching Sunday's night's epic Oscars blunder? We're thinking TV personality Steve Harvey did, too.
Parents hog-tie son with duct tape, go to dinner, police said
Parents hog-tie son with duct tape, go to dinner, police said

A Wisconsin couple are facing charges after police said they confined their 12-year-old son with duct tape and then went to dinner, leaving the child home alone. According to police, the child was left in the mother's car when she went into a local store. The boy left the car to buy Silly Putty at another location. When she found out where he went...
Sean Spicer targets his staff in White House leak probe, report claims
Sean Spicer targets his staff in White House leak probe, report claims

The search reportedly included any devices staffers had with them, including personal and government devices. Spicer warned staffers that using encrypted messaging apps like Signal, Whisper, Wickr and Confide were violations of the Federal Records Act, according to the report. The account, ironically, is a leak itself. It comes from several anonymous...
Fla. homeowner uses martial arts training to protect home from accused burglar
Fla. homeowner uses martial arts training to protect home from accused burglar

A Florida homeowner was able to protect his home and his belongings thanks his martial arts training. Brian Burch told WBBH that he used Brazilian jiujitsu to subdue and hold Josue Ortiz until police could respond. Burch also said he had wrestled before and had trained in jiujitsu for more than two years. He said that Ortiz hand entered his open garage...
7 things to know now: Oscar mix-up; Mardi Gras crash; new DNC chair; Bill Paxton dies
7 things to know now: Oscar mix-up; Mardi Gras crash; new DNC chair; Bill Paxton dies

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today. 1. Wrong Oscar announced: Actors Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway apparently took the wrong envelope with them onstage when they announced the winner of the Oscar for best picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. Beatty seemed to realize something was wrong and hesitated...
More Stories