Meet the meteorologist working — without pay — to keep you safe

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

Forecasters are used to working while others are home on snow days. During last weekend's storm, however, there was an added burden for the National Weather Service meteorologists — they were working without pay.

National Weather Service employees are among the approximately 800,000 federal workers who haven't been paid since the federal government shut down on Saturday, Dec. 22. 

"We're here regardless, watching the weather," said Bill Gartner, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in State College. 

Meteorologists have officially missed one paycheck so far, Gartner said Saturday, Jan. 19, as he and his colleagues prepared forecasts for the weekend storm. 

More:Updated winter storm warning: 3 to 6 inches of snow predicted for York County

Despite the shutdown, now in its fourth week, weather service employees in the field have been working regular shifts as they head into a busy period, he said.

Much of the season had been pretty quiet, but recently it's been ramping up as more "typical winter weather" arrived, Gartner said. 

More:York County Food Bank grapples with growing need amid shutdown

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More:Gov't shutdown threatens funding for federal food assistance

Gartner was working over the weekend while York County and much of Pennsylvania were under a winter storm warning. In York County, the storm warning was downgraded to a winter weather advisory Saturday night, but the area is under a wind chill advisory until 1 p.m. Monday.

Frigid air: John Banghoff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said Sunday, Jan. 20, that he expects York City to have a high temperature of 15 degrees Monday, Jan. 21, and a low temperature of just 5 degrees.

But with sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts up to 40 mph, Banghoff said, the wind chill will be about 10 to 15 degrees below zero by Monday morning.

"With some of these wind chills, it is possible that frostbite and hypothermia can occur," Banghoff said. "Wear multiple layers if heading outside — hats, gloves and even a scarf around your face if you have to be outside for any significant amount of time."

Banghoff said temperatures will remain cold Tuesday morning but should reach 29 degrees during the day, followed by a reprieve into the low 40s on Wednesday.

Alyson Hoegg, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, said she expects sustained winds of 15 to 25 mph overnight Sunday into Monday, and that wind chill temperatures could dip as low as minus 10 to minus 20 degrees.

Hoegg said the high temperature could reach 17 degrees Monday in York County but that with the wind chill, it will feel more like it's between zero and 10 below.

"Only go outside if you have to," she said, "and if you have to be outside, spend as little time as possible."

Hoegg recommended people leave their faucets with a small stream running to help prevent pipes from freezing. She also said it's a good idea to check on elderly family members or neighbors to make sure they have plenty of heat in their homes.

Hoegg said the temperature Monday night in York City will be about 3 degrees but that outlying areas will likely fall below zero.

Shutdown: The shutdown is caused by a dispute over President Donald Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to build a barrier along the nation's border with Mexico.

Democrats newly in charge of the House refuse to approve the funds, and the Republicans in control of the Senate, which approved a bill without the wall funding in December, have said they won't vote on a bill that doesn't have the president's support.