Did you Know that the National Weather Service is part of the Federal Government?
It is important for everyone (especially if you pay taxes!!) to know what the federal government actually does. So here is a snapshot of the National Weather Service (NWS):
• Do you know The National Weather Service mission? The NWS mission is “The Preservation of Life and Property and the Enhancement of the National Economy”.
• Do you know what cabinet level agency the NWS falls under? The NWS is part of the Department of Commerce.
• Do you know how much each taxpayer pays for the NWS? About the cost of a Big Mac meal! A great return on investment. The NWS budget is around 950 million dollars (give or take a few million).
• Do you know what the National Weather Service does (other than the public forecast)? Aviation Forecasts, Marine Forecasts, Fire Weather Forecasts, Hazardous material leaks, Severe Weather, Tropical Systems in the Atlantic Basin and the Pacific Basin.
• Did you know that the NWS is the ONLY entity that is allowed by law to issue Weather Advisories, Watches and Warnings. It is ILLEGAL for any private entity and other agencies to issue these on their own. They can be fined and sued whereas NWS employees cannot be sued for a wrong forecast etc (it has been tried and thrown out of court every time).
• Do you know what happens during a government shutdown? As a former manager I can tell you it’s a royal pain!
No one is allowed to leave the office to meet with congressional representatives, law enforcement, the public, etc. All tours are cancelled.
You are not allowed to call in sick or take vacation. If you are sick or have surgery you are not allowed to come back to the office till the shutdown is over. If you are in on vacation and a shutdown occurs you are not allowed back in the office till the shutdown is over. This is because sick leave and annual leave are “paid leaves”. During a shutdown there is no money therefore there is no “paid leave”.
• Do you believe we are “essential” during a government shutdown? Absolutely! Without the NWS there would be much fewer commercial flights, much less marine traffic into ports, no in-person briefings of firefighters during wildfires, no in-person briefings during hazardous spills, no in-person briefings during radiation leaks, etc. The national economy would be affected.
As you can imagine this can leave an office short-staffed with people working a lot of extra hours. This can be very stressful; even more so during a severe weather event. Years ago a study was done that showed that a forecaster working a severe weather event is under the same stress as a neurosurgeon during surgery!
Even though we have been paid after every shutdown is over there is no law that states that we are required to be paid. It is always up to Congress.
I hope this helps everyone understand what the NWS does. Are you surprised?