NWS Affected by Furloughs

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Jackson, Miss.

National Weather Service employees in Mississippi are set to feel the impact of the sequestration through furloughs, which they say could put people at risk.

For people like Mark Wilson, being forced to take a day off without pay isn't just a furlough. For him it's a matter of public safety.

"The National Weather Service's primary mission is the protection of life and property," Wilson said.

The parent agency of NWS, NOAA, informed employees they will be furloughed four days, cutting out 880 hours of work within an 8-week period.

Wilson, with the NWS Employees Organization, says putting employees on furlough could cause big problem for Mississippians if dangerous weather pops up or touches down, as if often does.

"If you start removing people out of the office and don't have adequate staffing for that, you reduce the timeliness of the warnings, the accuracy of the forecast and we may not have people available to give them that lifesaving information," said Wilson.

Another concern, Wilson says, is specialized equipment. If systems go down while a technician is on furlough, they would have to stay down.

"We won't be able to call in certain people if they're furloughed because, by law, they're not allowed to come in," said Wilson.

Wilson says the NWS is under-funded by nearly $18 million which could be made up by using some of the nearly $700 million NOAA has in grant money, instead of furloughs.

Some congressional members have already inquired about using some of the money for the NWS but that would have to be approved by the Department of Commerce, which controls the spending.

"One missed event could cost lives and millions of dollars," Wilson said. "And we don't like the thought of taking chances with people's lives. Unfortunately, it's going to possibly take one missed event for NOAA to realize that they're cutting the wrong corner."