WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The federal sequester has already caused flight delays and canceled the 4th of July fireworks at Camp Lejeune. Now it could affect public safety close to home. Wilmington’s National Weather Service office is waiting to find out if it will have to furlough forecasters.
“Each forecast office is staffed for fair weather. We are not staffed to deal with severe convection on a day-to-day basis,” said Carl Morgan, a meteorologist at the NWS office in Wilmington.
If furloughs are approved, employees are required by law to take a planned four days off over the span of a few months. But meteorologists working with the National Weather Service say you cannot furlough the weather.
On a typical day, the NWS office has two to three meteorologists staffed around the clock. During severe weather events, additional meteorologists are called in to monitor radar. Government issued furlough days would prevent that.
“You are rolling the dice, and you are hoping that those furlough days fall out on days when you do not end up needing those people,” Morgan said.
Brunswick County’s Emergency Services Director Anthony Marzano works closely with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. He says when it comes to the day of the storm, furloughs won’t help protect the public’s safety.
“Once a furlough day is submitted and approved, they cannot recall those individuals. You hate to have your A-team on the bench when you really need them the most,” Marzano said.
Furloughs could also affect how much hurricane data will be available for interpretation based on a shortage of employees to gather the data. Marzano says that puts lives and billions of dollars of property at risk.
Morgan says the NWS’s parent agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has more than $600 million in grant money to use. He hopes the grant money will be distributed in a way that could lessen the effects of furloughs.