As winter weather threatened to dump up to eight inches of snow in Washington, D.C., the National Weather Service’s staff kept providing vital forecasts for the nation even as its meteorologists tracked the storm without pay in the government shutdown.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which the weather service is under, confirmed in a statement to USA TODAY that its forecasts are on track despite the partial federal closure.
“Much of NOAA National Weather Service operations are in excepted status and therefore remain in place to provide forecasts and warnings to protect lives and property,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement to USA TODAY. “With several storm systems impacting the country, staff continue mission-essential functions.”
Weather service employees working are in “an expected status,” meaning they aren’t being paid now but are expected to get back pay once the partial federal government shutdown ends.
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Washington, D.C., can expect to see six to eight inches of snow from the storm, said meteorologist James Lee at the weather service’s Baltimore/Washington forecast office.
When asked whether the shutdown was affecting their forecasting, Lee said flatly, “It’s not.”
Winter storm warnings remain in effect for D.C., Baltimore and much of the surrounding area through Sunday evening, according to the weather service.
Writing in the (Charleston, South Carolina) Post and Courier, deputy NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs praised the weather service employees “working tirelessly” and said they have all resources needed to perform their jobs.
“The National Weather Service (NWS) has continued to perform this critical function with no degradation in forecast skill or model performance,” Jacobs wrote.
In its statement, NOAA said, “In addition to forecasters at our local offices and national centers, appropriate technical and engineering staff are ensuring our Earth observations, high performance computing, modeling and other systems required to meet this mission are up and operating.”
On Saturday, the bitter snow storm dumped more than 11 inches of snow on St. Louis, forcing sections of interstates to close and thousands of customers to remain without power. Parts of central Missouri, around Harrisburg, reported up to 17 inches of snow.
Also Saturday, the shutdown, now the longest ever in U.S. history, entered its 22nd day. Republican and Democratic lawmakers and President Donald Trump remained at a stalemate as neither side appeared to budge on funding for Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin. Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller