RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - If severe weather hits, we all depend on early warnings from forecasters to stay safe however News 4 Fact Finder team uncovered a new budget issue could be putting those lifelines at risk.
Some of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's satellites are aging quicker than expected, and budget concerns might mean replacement satellites won't go up in time - so forecasters would have to deal with gaps in important safety data - possibly for years. Something Western Nevada College Professor Thomas Herring says could impact your safety.
“We simply know a lot less about what's going to happen. It makes everything harder to predict,” Herring said.
A recent audit of the problem by the United States Government Accountability Office shows just how much harder. They cite claims that under those possible satellite data gaps forecasters would have predicted Hurricane Sandy to only hit over the ocean - meaning millions on land impacted by the storm would of had no time to prepare.
A spokesperson for NOAA writes News 4: "Our top priority is ensuring NOAA's National Weather Service is able to maintain the accuracy and timeliness of its forecasts and warnings. The administration is committed to providing the American public with life and property-saving forecasts and warnings."
That being said, another audit obtained by the Fact Finder Team from the U.S. Department of Commerce says right now quote: "NOAA does not have a policy that ensures consistent and reliable cost estimating."
Translation - the federal government has no idea how much fixing this problem will cost.
NOAA says they're working on nailing down that figure and finding some alternative solutions until the satellites are replaced, but some local experts say unless a pot of gold is found at the end of a rainbow the only clear forecast is that the safety of all us could be at risk.