A storm cloud is brewing over the the Spokane branch of the National Weather Service, which is in the process of updating equipment and expanding its duties.
Plans to dismantle the U.S. Department of Commerce could shut down weather stations in Boise, Spokane and elsewhere around the country. The proposal is being debated in Congress.
“It’s all proposed cuts,” said John Livingston, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Spokane. “Right now, we don’t know anything. We’re just going to wait and see how it all falls out.”
So are others. The Spokane office handles severe weather warnings and requests for information for Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
TV stations and farmers learn about weather patterns from the Spokane office, which also puts out weather forecasts developed in Seattle.
Byron Siemers, who owns an orchard at Green Bluff, said he watches TV weather reports closely. Television weather reports are based on information from Spokane’s National Weather Service office.
When Siemers misses the TV reports, he calls the weather service for the forecast. He makes decisions on when to spray and when to work the ground based on forecasts.
“It might make the difference whether you work your ground now, or maybe wait,” said Siemers, who grows apples, strawberries, peaches, cherries and several vegetables. “A lot of times what I like to do is, work the ground after a rain because it isn’t so dusty.
“We’re always trying to outguess the weather, on every decision we make.”
Roger Dormaier farms 700 acres of wheat a year, 90 miles west of Spokane. He gets his weather information from a feed in Wenatchee.
“We would lose that,” he said. “That’s the accepted thing right now, the conventional wisdom discussed in Wenatchee.”
Livingston first learned of the dismantling proposal in May. The version now under debate could close the Spokane office, he acknowledged.
This bill comes in the middle of a Weather Service modernization program that is closing some offices, improving others and spreading around duties.
The act would require the Weather Service to close 62 of the planned 118 modernized offices, the National Oceanic and Administration Office warned.
“Ten- to 20-minute lead times for severe storm warnings could be set back 20 years when there were often no advance warnings,” National Oceanic officials said.”It will be a matter of reorganizing things,” Bershers said.
The Spokane office is in the middle of modernizing.
It will move to a new location in September and eventually will take over weather forecasting in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
A new radar system is scheduled to arrive in November. A computer will begin observing gauges and conditions at the Spokane International Airport on Sept. 1.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Kim Barker Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.