Furlough days proposed for National Weather Service

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Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins
Web Editor - Mason Stevenson

New information concerning furloughs for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service employees.

Chris Nole with the N.W.S. Employees Organization says furloughs could have an impact on severe weather readiness.

Ciaran Clayton with NOAA told Local 6 weather service employees could be recalled if there was severe weather, but Nole says that's not the case.

"They cannot cancel a furlough day. Once an employee is in a furlough status, they are not allowed to be called in for severe weather," Nole says.

For many employees, those furlough days will be spread out, so there is minimal impact.  Nole says that's not the case for their electronics people, who service equipment, including weather radars.

He says they've already set aside four days that all electronics employees will have to take off.

"What I would hate to see happen is, on one of these furlough days where we have no E.T. staff in place and say our radar goes down an we do have severe weather, then we are in a scenario where we can't call any of our E.T.s in. that would be a bad situation," Nole says.

Nole says it's still possible NOAA and congress could come to a deal that would allow the weather service to avoid furloughs, but that it was in NOAA's hands.

Earlier story:

PADUCAH, Ky. - As yet another side effect of the sequester, the National Weather Service could be next to weather through furlough days. NOAA announced that it is proposing four unpaid days for the more than 12,000 workers across the agency.   

"We will be requesting a reprogramming request from Congress, however, unfortunately there are no easier, more painless options and furloughs are likely to happen," said Ciaran Clayton, the Director of Communications for NOAA.

Although it seems like the worst time to have fewer people keeping an eye on the skies, Clayton said they have to be taken before September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Representative for the National Weather Service’s labor union have already spoken out against the furlough plan.

Local Emergency Managers, like Brent Stringer of Livingston County, are also wary. He said he relies on the NWS nearly every day.

"A delay in service that we receive out of the NWS could potentially delay having a tornado warning issued or something of that nature so that could be a very serious public safety factor," he said.

Clayton said that won't happen and weather forecasters will be able to take off different days than the scheduled furloughs to prevent it. She added that furlough days can also be canceled because of severe weather.

A final plan could come out in a few weeks. Clayton said the first furlough day could come in July. 

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