Concerns that NOAA sequestration could affect public safety - KCTV5

Concerns that NOAA sequestration could affect public safety

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© AP Photo/Alonzo Adams © AP Photo/Alonzo Adams

Monday's deadly tornado in Oklahoma underscored the importance of accurate, timely weather warnings.

It goes without saying that meteorologists on every level saved lives that day.

But with potential furloughs of government weather personnel, some within the meteorological community feel that public safety could be compromised.

"The talent, the skill of the meteorologists at the Norman forecast office and SPC (Storm Prediction Center) really showed through on Monday afternoon," said Gary Woodall with the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

That office had issued a tornado warning 16 minutes before the tornado first developed, and it was about 30 minutes before the tornado actually hit the town of Moore.

"The average tornado warning lead time now is about 13 to 14 minutes or so.  That was above average as far as the initial development and well above average for when Moore was actually impacted," added Woodall.

But because of sequestration, National Weather Service employees, for example, could be facing up to 10 days of furloughs.

"Unfortunately, there were just no other options for us and we had to make the painful decision to propose the furloughs," said Ciaran Clayton, with NOAA in Washington, D.C.

Valerie Meyers, a spokesperson for the National Weather Service Employees Organization  said, "It's a very bad idea. It's very detrimental I think to public service in general."

Meyers added that the government could be putting a price tag on public safety.  Meyers and fellow NWS employees hope events like the Moore, OK tornado will open some eyes back in D.C.

"The public is very important, that is our main goal, is to serve the public.  If the sequesters and these furloughs go into effect, we can't provide that service to you and offer that protection for lives and property," said Meyers.

NOAA added that potential furloughs can be canceled at any time, especially for impending weather events like hurricanes or additional tornado outbreaks.

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