$126M Could be Slashed from Nat'l Weather Service Budget

By KBJR News 1

March 1, 2011 Updated Mar 1, 2011 at 9:38 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - A budget proposal, passed by the US House and now in the Senate, could cut the National Weather Service's budget by $126M.

The NWS maintains radar equipment, weather sensors and sends up weather balloons that gather data for forecasts. But it is facing some significant cuts that would for the weather offices in Duluth and the twin cities to combine to produce only one set of data for about a month this fiscal year.

Under the bill the weather service would have to cut $126M dollars.

"The proposed idea from upper levels is that 22-24 offices will be closed at a time for 27 days to offset the costs," said Steven Wannebo with the National Weather Service.

Wannebo said this would pose a danger to our region's safety.

"It can cause many problems for us, we can do it for a little while, but if there's an outbreak of severe weather, which you've seen, where an entire state can be enveloped with severe weather we just don't have the resources to be able to cover that area dependent on the outbreak."

"The budget cut has implications for all forecasters as well. The number of weather balloons they can send up goes from twice daily to once every other day; which means less data and potentially inaccurate forecasts."

"I can guarantee you its 50-70% degradation in our ability to do our job as far as forecasting."

Wannebo says another problem could be air travel shutting down if weather observations at airports aren't working correctly, and there's no one to fix them. Wannebo is looking for public support to keep the bill from passing.

"What we need people to do is call their Congressman and Senators and say restore the funding to the NWS."

Wannebo says currently the weather service costs each person in the United States three dollars a year.