Another furloughed meteorologist, Brad Barrett, is a professor at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He spoke of the shutdown’s impact on his academic institution:

It’s frustrating, for sure. As a civilian employee of the US Navy, I am on leave without pay. I am not allowed to work. On Monday, I sent out an email to my 60 students with homework in advance for the next two weeks. Beyond the next two weeks, I told them: ‘If nothing changes, you have the syllabus; you may have to teach yourselves.’ Starting next week, my institution is considering taking drastic measures: possibly either suspending all classes until the end of the shutdown, or hold lecture classes only for freshmen. We may need to delay graduation.

From a research perspective, the impact is even more severe, according to Barrett:

From the standpoint of teaching, it’s a very significant disruption. From a research standpoint, it’s disastrous. For example, I have to pause my own research into short-term climate variability and can’t meet with the students I am advising. For others, it is worse: I have a colleague conducting a long-term study on the health of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The oysters are going to keep growing—and she won’t be there to measure them. Much of this critical time-sensitive data will be lost.

But what about when something as obviously “mission critical” as a landfalling hurricane happens during the shutdown, as is forecasted on Friday? Barrett was more candid:

I have no doubt that the National Weather Service will carry the torch forward and issue the watches and warnings necessary to prepare for these storms. The Air Force Hurricane Hunters are flying, they’re all there. The bigger question mark in my mind is on the response end. What will the federal response to disasters look like during a government shutdown? What percentage of FEMA is considered essential? Certainly not all aspects that should be considered so. We’ve learned a lot as a country during the last 10 years from the responses to natural disasters like Katrina and Sandy. Resources and people have to come quickly in the aftermath. If there is a place where problems will arise, it’s there, not in the forecasting. Can you imagine Congress coming together and passing an emergency spending bill during the shutdown? Can a natural disaster be a shock to the system? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we’ll have to wait until debt limit is reached in the next few weeks.

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