How much would shutdown impact hurricane emergency response?

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 10:21 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- The U.S. government is being forced to let some 800,000 federal workers off the job, some employed by agencies that the New Orleans metro area relies on if disaster strikes.

So how does the government shutdown impact their ability to respond? Eyewitness News decided to find out.

"We have to keep an eye. It's pretty early in the game," said National Weather Service New Orleans meteorologist-in-charge Ken Graham.

Before and after disaster strikes, federally funded agencies respond on the ground and behind the scenes. On Tuesday night, a team of NWS meteorologists were busy keeping a watchful eye on a tropical system lurking in the Caribbean.

"We'll still have the weather radio up and running. We'll still have the cell phones. We'll still have social media," Graham said in response to the government shutdown.

Despite what's happening in the nation's capital, Graham said his office falls under the "accepted" category, which means business as usual.

"We're going to be working through this shutdown, and if there's a disaster, we're going to be here ready to communicate all the information that we can," added Graham.

However, Facebook posts from the headquarters of FEMA, the National Hurricane Center and Army Corps of Engineers say social media updates will be limited and less frequent because of the furlough.

Eyewitness News reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard, which said it will continue to respond to search and rescue missions, environmental disasters and other emergencies. Although emergency services won't be impacted, Lt. Paul Rhynard, a Washington, D.C.-based US Coast Guard spokesman, confirmed a total of 6,000 civilian personnel (out of a total of 8,000) have been furloughed across the country.

The Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans says it will remain at the ready if a storm heads this way.

"Every time there's a national emergency, there's a different funding stream that is created to make sure that federal employees are where they need to be," said chief of public affairs Ken Holder with the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans.

Holder said key projects currently underway in the metro area already have secured federal dollars and that any furloughing of employees will depend on how long this government shutdown drags out.

"I think what we have in place now is a short-term fix with some of our revolving accounts to be able to deal with the short term. If it goes for a long time we'll have other issues that will have to be faced," added Holder.

 

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