SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The National Weather Service office in South Burlington is set to get two new meteorologists next month and two more this winter to alleviate a chronic staffing shortage that Vermont’s congressional delegation calls outrageous.
The office currently has seven full-time meteorologists, down from 13 in 2012. Meteorologist and union steward Brooke Taber told The Burlington Free Press that given the staffing situation, the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission of protecting life and property would be nearly impossible in the event of a big storm. Meteorologists are working back-to-back shifts, skipping days off and canceling vacations, he said.
“We’re confined to just trying to get our daily operations completed,” he said. “We’ve been really lucky weather-wise that it’s been quiet — knock on wood.”
The situation isn’t unique to Vermont. The National Weather Service employed 4,218 people in fiscal year 2016, according to the Government Accountability Office. The union estimates there are 680 vacancies.
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A National Weather Service spokesman said the agency is actively working to fill vacancies and in the meantime is supplementing staffing with temporary assignments.
Vermont’s congressional delegation says the vacancies are the result of misguided budget cuts.
“The cuts to staffing levels in Burlington are unacceptable,” Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch told the Free Press. “The rise in extreme weather events across our country calls for increasing —not stripping — investments in local forecasting and public safety capabilities.”
Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com