Bill introduced to consolidate the National Weather Service - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bill introduced to consolidate the National Weather Service

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

The National Weather Service is made up of 122 local offices across the U.S. Those local offices are in danger of being consolidated into six regional offices thanks to a Senate Bill (S. 1573) introduced by Senator John Thune of South Dakota who is also the chair for the Commerce Committee. For clarification, the National Weather Service operates under the direction of NOAA which is a part of the Department of Commerce.

So what does this mean? For starters, it would take all the NWS local forecasters away from their offices like the one here in Memphis. That would endanger partnerships with the EMA and broadcasters (like us). It's good to be on the same page during weather events and help each other whether programming weather radios at community events or doing storm surveys after a severe event. It would likely disrupt the flow of communication during major severe weather events like tornadoes and snowstorms. Someone from somewhere like Atlanta or Dallas would issue all the warnings for the Mid-South. This is the most disturbing part to me. I can't imagine someone issuing warnings for storms in Memphis from Atlanta. There is something about having people in the location where it's happening. It is likely a cost-savings initiative and I understand that to an extent. I also understand that we have to find better and smarter ways to work as organizations, but I'm not so sure this is the answer. This could potentially cost lives depending on how it is organized. The current setup has worked well since it was introduced in the 90s. I hope they think long and hard before they do a complete makeover.

Below is a response from the National Weather Service Employees Organization. While there may be a few advantages to consolidating, I think they make a good case for the many possible negative impacts.

(June 18, 2015) NWSEO strongly opposes the consolidation of community weather forecast offices to create six regional weather offices proposed in Senator Thune's (R-SD) bill on Tuesday. The bill, S. 1573, discounts the impact of local forecasters who have knowledge of their area, the unique weather patterns that exist there, and the impact of severe weather. It is also in direct conflict to the National Weather Service's Weather Ready Nation initiative which calls for more interaction with local life-saving emergency managers and first responders. 'Regionalizing weather forecast offices will forever put to rest the idea of the life-saving plans in Weather Ready Nation,” said NWSEO President Dan Sobien. “The expertise and collaboration of the local meteorologists and first responders is critical during severe weather events. As part of Weather Ready Nation, your NWS meteorologists work and train with local emergency managers to prepare for weather emergencies. You won't have that face-to-face collaboration with only six regional weather forecast offices nationally.' Existing science indicates that regionalized forecasting will result in a degradation of the accuracy and reliability of the forecasts. Repeated studies of the NWS structure conclude there's a direct correlation between the accuracy of weather forecasts and services to a community and the proximity from which they're provided. As recently as 2005, Congress rejected proposals to consolidate forecasting operations because the NWS lacked the metrics to ensure the forecasts and services would not be degraded.

The introduction of a bill doesn't mean something will happen soon, but it will definitely be something to watch. Here is a link to the actual bill if you want to check it out.    

National Weather Service Bill

Spencer Denton
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