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National Weather Service plans furloughs

Posted: May 1, 2013 - 12:01am

FAIRBANKS — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has planned furloughs over the summer for National Weather Service employees, a union representative in Fairbanks said.

Furloughs around the country that will affect the 200 employees in Alaska, said meteorologist Jim Brader, a representative of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The furloughs are planned to save money, but the public could see less reliable weather information as a result, he said.

“When furloughs occur, things like aviation and marine forecasts and flood warnings will not be as good and the public could suffer harm,” Brader said.

The agency has 19 state offices, and workers will be furloughed for four days as part of automatic budget cuts ordered by Congress, Brader said in an announcement.

Furloughed employees, by law, cannot be called in, Brader said.

A hiring freeze already has left the agency with a 10 percent vacancy rate in Alaska, he said.

Fairbanks is authorized for 16 forecasting positions, he said, and 30 percent are vacant. Forecasters work a day of overtime every two weeks and managers work shifts to cover basic work, he said.

Several Alaska workers retired in December and have not been replaced.

“We’ve had some positions open since last September,” Brader told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The union contends furloughs will save $6.6 million out of a $1 billion nationwide budget and are not necessary.

The union has appealed to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich for assistance and suggested that the agency shift money from grant funds to avoid furloughs.

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