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Hurricane research in jeopardy because of government shutdown

Posted at 11:35 AM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 16:50:37-05

MIAMI, Fla. — You might think a partial government shutdown would have greater impacts on the National Hurricane Center during hurricane season.

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Actually, the current shutdown may be worse in the so-called off season.

Jim Mathie has been through about 20 storms in his time living in South Florida. Frances, Charley, Jeanne, and Andrew just to name a few.

"Andrew was the one that woke everyone up," Mathie said. He knows the importance of learning from storms in the off season. "Ongoing scientific process to improve our quality of life."

But learning has been put on hold because of the partial government shutdown.

"Trying to look at data from old storms. We don’t have any access," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist and union steward to the National Hurricane Center. "This is actually worse than a shutdown during hurricane season."

Blake said this is the time of the year when the Hurricane Center and other agencies are training, improving forecasting, and conducting model development. All of that research is used to help us get through hurricane season.

But many workers who upgrade the NHC's forecasting technology are now furloughed because of the shutdown.

"This is the time of year we make things better," said Blake. "Another improvement we’re trying to make. Better physics packages. It’s just time loss we can’t regain. We can’t move the date of hurricane season, so we’re losing precious time."

Blake said he's particularly concerned that critical employees may consider other work if the shutdown continues much longer.

The Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1.