Federal employees are facing their second zero-dollar paycheck this week, several thousand National Weather Service workers among them. These are the people who not only tell you how cold it’s going to be next week (very) but also work with emergency managers to keep people safe during natural disasters, issue wildfire weather outlooks and do critical hurricane research during the offseason.
That these employees — who keep the lights on and lifesaving data flowing 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 122 forecast offices in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam — are not being paid, and that all of the “nonessential” work (like figuring out how to improve hurricane forecasts) is not being done, is unacceptable to some lawmakers. Twelve U.S. House members sent President Trump a letter Wednesday expressing their displeasure and urging him to end the shutdown.
“Every community that your supporters call home depends on America’s NWS to keep them safe, healthy and ready,” the lawmakers write.
All the things that seemed like worst-case scenarios in late December and early January are now coming to bear as the shutdown enters its second month:
- Emergency management training for hurricane season has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.
- Offseason research for hurricane forecast models is not happening.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s next-gen weather forecast model, scheduled to launch in February, will be delayed.
“We remain deeply concerned that this shutdown is undermining the ability of dedicated public servants to deliver necessary lifesaving services and may permanently compromise the ability of the agency to do its work,” the lawmakers write.
The letter was co-signed by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) who represents the district that includes the NWS Albany forecast office; Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), the chair of the House Science Committee; Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.); Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis; Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), whose district includes the NWS headquarters in Silver Spring; Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), who represents the district that includes the Chicago NWS forecast office; Don Beyer (D-Va.); Marc Veasey (D-Tex.); Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.); Charlie Crist (D-Fla.); Bill Foster (D-Ill.); and Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.).