Shutdown impacting those who help provide local weather forecasts


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WATN) — The government shutdown is having a ripple effect on multiple operations nationwide. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA is the parent agency for the National Weather Service. Employees are working without pay to help keep us all safe.

WAVY sister station WATN in Memphis spoke to the deputy administrator at NOAA, Dr. Neil Jacobs, and its own chief meteorologist, John Bryant, about the shutdown and why it’s so imperative that some of those employees keep working even though they’re not getting paid.

“They’re dedicated to the mission of protecting life and property,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs spoke in a Skype interview about the effects the government shutdown is having on forecasting severe weather.

“The primary effect is on the research and development side,” Jacobs said.

Development of future products and services are being delayed right now.

If it’s not considered to be “mission critical to weather forecasting,” workers don’t work.

In general, a forecast office like the National Weather Service in Memphis has anywhere from 20 to 30 employees. There are a total of 24 employees at the Memphis office, and about 4,000 nationwide. At least nine forecasters in Memphis are considered “essential,” so they’re working without getting paid.

Bryant said, “We rely on them because they issue the watches and warnings, so it is critical that we have communication with them to protect the public.”

Bryant says it’s a team effort. He and forecasters at the National Weather Service rely on each other to give the most up-to-the-minute weather coverage.

“We act as a team so we’re both here to serve the public to protect life and property. So this is essential,” Bryant said.

Jacobs said, “Myself included, none of us are getting a paycheck. We will get back pay once appropriations are restored but right now no one is receiving a paycheck.”

Jacobs says morale is pretty good right now. He adds that other employees are basically on-call to come in and work if there’s a major weather event.

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