Stormy Weather Service

March 25, 1997

Stormy Weather Service

Four senior National Weather Service officials say budget cuts forcing layoffs and service reductions may have contributed to the deaths of three Coast Guard crewmen and will likely further weaken the service's prediction capabilities, possibly contributing to more death and injury, The Los Angeles Times reported today.

"It is unlikely that we will go through the rest of the winter storm season, the severe weather season and then the hurricane season, without one or more occurrences which will shine a harsh light on the weakened capabilities of the NWS," the officials said in a memo to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chief D. James Baker. "There will be an increased probability of more instances in which people will die or suffer serious injury or property loss."

The Feb. 19 memo, which was made public Monday, is signed by Ronald D. McPherson, director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Louis Boezi, deputy assistant administrator of the Weather Service for modernization; Thomas D. Potter, western region director, and Douglas H. Sargeant, director of the office of systems development. The memo was endorsed by NWS chief Elbert W. Friday Jr.

The Weather Service's $500 million budget is being cut by $27.5 million. To swallow that reduction, the service is cutting 43 positions, including jobs at the National Hurricane Center in Miami and the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma. The service's southern regional headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas, responsible for 10 states from New Mexico to Florida, is being closed down. Its duties will be divided between offices in Bohemia, N.Y. and Kansas City, Mo.

"We believe strongly that these decisions are ill-advised and will increase the risk of unnecessary deaths, injuries and damage," the memo said.

McPherson, whose National Centers For Environmental Prediction are the starting point for most weather forecasting in the country, said he will resign if the budget cuts are not restored.

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