National Weather Service Facing Severe Budget Cuts

Wednesday, March 2nd 2011, 7:49 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley & Travis Meyer, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Severe weather can hit Oklahoma anytime and anywhere.

The National Weather Service has two offices in the state, one in Norman and one in Tulsa.

Congress is considering a plan that would cut funding to the National Weather Service by 28 percent.  The House has already approved the bill that would cut $126 million from the weather service budget over the first half of next fiscal year.

Steve Piltz, with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, says his office has already made small cuts, such as limiting cell phone usage and cutting back on some travel.

"We can do mission critical travel and so we will still interact with the emergency managers, do storm spotters training," Piltz said. "We will follow up after storms if we need to go look at areas."

But union leaders say the proposed cuts will put lives at risk. Bill Hopkins is Executive Vice President for the National Weather Service Employees organization.

"If the government shuts us down and furloughs us for 30 days, I can't say it any clearer, people will die," he said.

"That's an opinion," Piltz said. "That's something that I don't think that we would ever let happen here at this office. There's always a way to get the job done and that's what we would do."

Piltz says if the budget is cut, the weather service would still be able to respond to severe weather. He says the offices in Norman and Tulsa work together and share the same systems that track the changing weather.

"That's how we operate in the weather service where we have software that we can look like the Norman office, they can look like Tulsa," he said. "Tulsa and Norman are considered sister offices within the agency and so we can step for them and they can step in for us as need be."

The bill is now in the Senate.

The Obama administration has said if the bill undermines national security through funding levels or restrictions, President Obama will veto it.