The National Weather Service said Friday it is carrying out plans to close its Southern regional headquarters in Texas and pare back staff at its hurricane center in Florida and a tornado-tracking center in Oklahoma.
The controversial moves had been repeatedly stalled by objections from members of Congress, Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and emergency management officials who contended that public safety would be jeopardized.
“They are compromising the safety of the people along our coastal areas (by) reducing the staff at the Hurricane Center,” said Billy Wagner, director of emergency management for the Florida Keys.
Agency leaders said a $27.5 million budget shortfall was forcing them to scale back operations. They denied public safety would be harmed.
The Southern regional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, will be closed and its duties split between regional offices in Bohemia, N.Y., and Kansas City, Mo. The Fort Worth office, with a staff of 60, now oversees operations in 10 states from New Mexico east to Florida.
The weather service said it will reduce the staff at its National Hurricane Center in Miami, and the tornado-tracking Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., by a handful of jobs each. Overnight staffing at both centers will be cut back to one person, except in cases of bad weather. Both centers also will be issuing fewer advisories.
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