NOAA employees face potential furloughs

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Federal cuts are trickling down, leaving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association scrambling to cut seven percent this year. Their proposal — four furlough days for nearly 12,000 employees from the National Weather Service.

“For some bizarre reason they’ve picked the one emergency function agency that they have to do this in,” said Barry Hirshorn.

NOAA says 370 employees will be affected in Hawaii. Furlough days are planned for July 5, July 19, Aug. 5, and Aug. 30. All four right smack in the middle of hurricane season.

“The big fear for Hawaii I think really lies with the chance of missed storms and hurricanes when the warnings aren’t very accurate,” said Hirshorn. “So I would say furloughs would potentially put lives in jeopardy.”

KHON2 got in touch with NOAA Headquarters in Washington D.C., asking what would happen if a natural disaster fell on one of the furlough days. They replied in an email, “In the event of a severe weather event, furlough days can be cancelled for essential employees in the affected area.”

The Pacific Tsunami Warning center says we usually have about three hours of warning if there’s a tsunami threat to Hawaii. But Hirshorn argues that’s not enough time to get all hands on deck to warn the public.

“If you don’t know it’s coming, there’s not much you can do and I think that’s what we’re talking about here, not knowing when something’s going to hit,” Hirshorn stated. “We’re already stretched thin, there’s already significant danger.”

The union for the National Weather Service will be working to stop the furloughs during hearings on Capitol Hill next week.

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