Federal budget cuts could affect National Weather Service - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Federal budget cuts could affect National Weather Service

SHELBY COUNTY, AL (WBRC) -

By Katie Herrera

CALERA, AL (WBRC) - Weather affects all of us. And when it gets bad, the National Weather Service is charged with issuing warnings for our area.

But the President's proposed federal budget will cut their funding by nearly one-third, and the Birmingham office is bracing for the impact.

"Right off the bat, we're taking some administrative cuts. We're losing about 30 percent of our office spending budget. We're also returning some government vehicles that we use for outreach and storm damage surveys," explained Birmingham Meteorologist-In-Charge Jim Stefkovich. And with nothing finalized yet, there could be more cuts.

Stefkovich said that if they have to dip into labor cuts, there could be major damage to their service.

"We're hearing rumors of furloughs and potential what are called ‘blackouts,' where we go down and another office takes over. Or vice-versa. Boy, that can get to be a real struggle," said Stefkovich.

There are many industries that depend on the NWS who might indirectly be affected by the proposed cuts. FOX6 relies on the NWS because they issue warnings. But also aviation, agriculture, and emergency management officials depend on their data.

"They play a big part in what we do," explained Jefferson County EMA PIO Mark Kelly.

The Jefferson County EMA monitors the NWS when they need to enact emergency plans.

"Whether it's a tornado, flooding, snow and ice, we're in very close contact with the National Weather Service. Not only for the forecasts, but also up to the minute briefings that we get from them on a regular basis," said Kelly.

"We're just hoping we can cut everything we can administratively without it affecting our mission to protect life and property," said Stefkovich.

Copyright 2011 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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