Senate Bill Could Cut Number Of Weather Service Offices From 122 To 6

Tuesday, June 16th 2015, 10:16 pm
By: News On 6

There are 122 National Weather Service offices nationwide, but there's a plan being floated in the U.S. Senate to reduce the number of those offices to just six, meaning many jobs could be lost.

The National Weather Service forecasts and warns the public from its offices, including the one in Tulsa.

The Senate bill would centralize the offices, combining all of the locations into six regional offices.

"If you lose some of that local knowledge base, it's [going to] have a negative impact, in my view, at least," says News On 6 Meteorologist Dick Faurot.

The measure would cut costs, but Faurot wonders at what cost.

"Weather in Oklahoma is going to be a little different from Arkansas, it's going to be a little different from Mississippi, it's going to be a little different from New York, or wherever,” he explained. “You have to have that local knowledge base in order to really come up with a reasonable forecast."

The bill would not close existing National Weather Service offices. Instead, a meteorologist would remain in each office as a liaison to media and local emergency managers.

Read the Senate bill.

The bill recommends the new regional offices be located near a university or government lab, like the National Weather Center in Norman.

The bill says forecasting should not be compromised under the consolidation, but Oklahoma State Climatologist Gary McManus is concerned about losing local weather experts.

"The forecasts and the expertise I get from those forecasters, and those offices, again, it's absolutely vital to my job," McManus stated.

Some estimate 1,000 meteorologists would lose jobs if the bill passes.

Weather forecasting is technology-driven, but Faurot says it's still important to amplify machine power with man power.

"It's really nice to have that local effect, that local contact," he explained.

The National Weather Service budget is almost a billion dollars a year.  The Tulsa NWS office said it couldn't comment on the Senate bill.