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Temporary Shutdown of National Weather Service Office Possible

POSTED: Monday, February 21, 2011 - 6:22pm

UPDATED: Monday, February 21, 2011 - 9:47pm

Part of the federal budget that is yet to go through both houses of Congress has cut this year's funding to the National Weather Service by $126 million dollars. That has left NOAA administrators scrambling to figure out how to trim the spending.

One cost cutting measure will likely be a "rolling blackout" of National Weather Service offices across the country. Every office would shut down for a period of 27 days and the responsibilities within that office would be shifted to a neighboring National Weather Service office. Each office would put all it's workers on furlough for that 27 days.

If cuts occur during the summer monsoon season, flood warnings and other severe weather warnings for the El Paso area may not be as timely. That could be compounded if the NWS office that is covering the El Paso area is also experiencing storms. Situations like that are not unlikely, as the Albuquerque office will be handling El Paso's workload, and is often seeing stormy weather at the same time as El Paso.

Other cuts may include a reduction in the frequency of weather balloons sent by each of the National Weather Service office. These balloons get direct measurements of the upper level conditions. Fewer balloon launches would reduce accuracy of forecasts for thunderstorms. Upper air data is used in computer model forecasts, and a reduction in the frequency of new balloon launches or the number of balloon launches across the nation would reduce the quality of the forecasts any computer model would be capable of achieving.

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