National Weather Service continued through storm, despite shutdown

Sioux Falls, SD (KSFY) The massive winter storm comes right in the middle of the government shutdown, officially closing all federal offices since midnight Friday.

The shutdown closed national parks around the U.S. over the weekend, but essential government services have continued, including the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

There were plenty of vehicles still in the parking lot Monday, as there have been all weekend to make sure our community is safe during this major winter storm.

"We have wind gusts of 35 to 40 miles an hour and that's causing white out conditions across much of the area," Sioux Falls Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said.

This storm system closed many schools and shut down Interstate 29 south of Sioux Falls Monday.

"The snowfall and the reduced visibility caused by the wind is the biggest concern we all have. so obviously travel is very difficult," Heitkamp said.

This white out comes as no surprise to county officials.

"With this particular storm system, they started giving us information last week about possibilities of what could happen and we get updates as much as three or four times a day," Lincoln County Emergency Manager Harold Timmerman said.

"We're making sure that they're planned and prepared for a major winter storm hitting their area," Heitkamp said.

Many of those updates came this weekend and into Monday morning when National Weather Service employees appear to be working with the hope of getting paid in the future.

Even in the national office, weather service public affairs officials were unable to explain how these federal employees are still at work. Their phone service simply had a voicemail saying “we will be unable to return phone calls until funding has been appropriated and the shutdown ends”.

“Even though there is a government shutdown…Saturday, Sunday, it doesn't make a difference what day of the week it is, they're on the ball giving us the information we need to know,” Timmerman said of the Sioux Falls weather service.
Street departments, school districts and emergency managers depend on those updates weather updates to keep people safe.

“If there is a drastic change, everyone needs to know that soon,” Timmerman said. “The Weather Service plays a critical role in all of those things.”

Officials at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls were able to give updates about the winter storm system Monday but they were directed not to discuss the government shutdown or how it is impacting their paychecks or schedules.

Other essential federal services like air traffic controllers, postal workers and members of the military also continued operations as usual Monday, despite the shutdown.