Plenty of people are feeling the effects of the partial government shutdown now. There are the 800,000 federal workers who aren’t getting paid, including many who are being forced to show up to work anyway. There are people who rely on government services, including those who were stuck in two-hour security lines at the Atlanta airport this week.
And even more could feel it later. That list includes just about everyone in south Louisiana, if a major storm develops in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to a recent piece in Scientific American, one casualty of the shutdown is the advance work that the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center and related agencies do in the off-season. And that work, while deemed not sufficiently essential for employees to be called in without pay, informs the undeniably essential job of forecasting hurricanes in real time.
Among the tasks on hold, according to the article, are upgrades to a key forecasting model. Scientists are missing conferences, where they can learn the latest and exchange ideas. Preparedness training for emergency managers is in danger of being canceled.
“This is the time of year where the most work is done for hurricanes, because it’s a time when all the operational people [or forecasters] are more available. You’re trying to put the best physics into hurricane models, trying new data sources,” Eric Blake, a forecaster with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told the magazine. “That type of development is basically halted now.”
Along with a whole lot of other government functions that may also come back to bite us some day.