Amarillo, Texas - Future severe weather seasons may now become even more dangerous.
That's because a possible $39 million federal funding cutback to the National Weather Service could be detrimental to our local weather forecasting office.
The first item on the chopping block, a key member of the team at every office, the Information Technology Officer.
A meteorologist with IT skills, this person knows all the in's and out's of the complicated systems of the 57 computers at the Amarillo station, and is vital during severe weather events.
Like many offices, where money is tight and staff is limited, one less set of hands could make a major difference.
Stephen Bilodeau at the Amarillo NWS Office explains, "You're having one less person here, especially a person who has been here 27 years, knows all the products and has actually made national products for our computers. Now this person is gone and we'll have to rely on people who aren't familiar with those products to help if something does happen."
That's because the nearest ITO would be in Fort Worth, and a six hour drive to come fix something may just be too late.
Bilodeau says, "If the computers go down during a severe weather event, we wouldn't have that person here to help bring the computers back up in a timely matter, so there might be warnings or watches that might not make it out to the public."
The budget cutbacks would also force the NWS to discontinue three important programs.
The one that affects our region is the wind profiler network, ours is in Tucumcari, and it helps meteorologists issue tornado watches and warnings.