National Weather Service criticized for moving away from local forecasts

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Big changes are in the works for the National Weather Service in the near future. The NWS Employees Organization says it all could be a huge mistake that could cost lives.

The government agency is planning to go from a full to a part-time operation, while moving away from local forecasts.

This is all part of a new “Evolve” initiative the NWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) are planning to roll out.

Currently, any weather-related watches or warnings for the Austin and San Antonio areas are delivered from our local NWS in New Braunfels. However, Dan Sobien, president of NWS Employees Organization tells us that these warnings would no longer be delivered from this office. Sobien says, “[The warnings] would be coming out of some distant location and the forecast would actually be coming out of Washington D.C.”

The organization is concerned this change could impact how many receive accurate weather information. They believe forecasts should be kept local, instead of using blended forecast models from other parts of the country. “It will degrade services and potentially even costs lives. We have no idea how they could’ve of come up with this kind of solution,” Sobien stresses.

The NWS says these changes were recommended after two studies were directed by Congress. They say it will offer a “modern service delivery model” to meet the needs of growing communities.

While the service stresses that they are not pushing for office closures, Sobien believes that shifting from a 24/7 operation to part time forecasters would not only sacrifice accuracy, but could also lead to these offices closing permanently, down the road.

“There’s no question that the NWS really needs to change the way we forecast,” says Sobien, “But the idea should come from the meteorologist doing the job, not bureaucrats in Washington.”

The National Weather Service plans to test and evaluate the new “Evolve” initiative in 2017, before officially implementing the change in 2018.