The government may stop, but the weather will not.
It’s why approximately 80 percent of National Weather Service employees remain hard at work tracking storms and issuing alerts.
A statement on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website says it will continue to be maintained because it contains information that will “protect life and property.” But due to the shutdown, the meteorologists and researchers will not receive pay until Congress reaches a budget agreement. The National Weather Service is part of NOAA.
Last week, an employee in Anchorage, Alaska, inscribed “PLEASE PAY US” into a weather forecast, a move that has caused some fallout within the agency, said Dan Sobien, the national president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.
“There’s a pretty high level of frustration among people,” Sobien said. “Any time there’s a political disagreement in Washington, federal employees are getting kicked in the shins. That was the face of frustration.”
Sobien added that the union does not endorse what the employee did. He has heard, however, people within the organization and in other federal agencies express their support, calling the employee “a hero.”
Local newspapers have picked up on the humor of “essential” versus “nonessential” government functions in light of the shutdown. After reading why weather forecasts would continue to be issued during the D.C. standoff, Editor Kurt Hildebrand of the small-town Nevada newspaper The Record-Courier editorialized in the print edition:
“We’re still getting National Weather Service forecasts, because they’ve been deemed essential due to the fact that we’re still getting weather. Expect today’s weather to be sunny and cool with a high temperature of 57 degrees. Wind will be out of the east at 10-15 mph, gusting to 25 mph.”
Jokes aside, employees at the National Weather Service are feeling the pocketbook pain that has been expressed by many federal agency employees awaiting paychecks. As for when Congress will appropriate funding, the forecast is bleak.