Serious budget cuts proposed by Congress for the National Weather Service for the rest of this year could result in temporary office closures that would last nearly a month.
The 27-day furloughs would be part of a plan made by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to account for the $126 million dollars in cuts proposed by Congress.
That amounts to a 30 percent budget cut for the rest of 2011.
The furloughs would operate in the same manner as rolling blackouts. Out of 122 NWS offices around the nation, 22 of them would be shut down at any given time.
But the furloughs only make up half of the money that will be cut.
The rest of the funds will come from other cuts including a reduction of weather balloons released across the country.
These balloons, which are released twice daily, provide vital information to forecasters. Reducing balloon launches to once a day or once every other day could significantly decrease the accuracy of forecasts.
Equipment issues could also arise during the furloughs. Weather sensors are notoriously sensitive and when equipment isn't maintained on a regular basis, failures can occur.
National Weather Service Office in Santa Teresa, which is responsible for the forecast for El Paso and surrounding areas, also has an on-site radar.
If the radar goes offline due to technical problems during the 27 day furlough, the nearest technician would be at least four hours away. This could mean parts of the area could go without radar coverage for hours and possibly days.
"The nearby radars at Holloman and also over in Tucson really don't cover most of southwestern New Mexico at all and they have limited capabilities over the Mesilla Valley and even west El Paso," said local steward of the National Weather Service employee's organization Mike Hardiman.
Hardiman said if forecasters can't see severe storms in these radar blind spots, flash flood and tornado warnings could take significantly longer to issue, if they get issued at all.
"Being that crippled in terms of raw data is not a very good prospect for having any lead time especially for flash flood events," said Hardiman.
During the furlough, nearby weather offices would be responsible for issuing forecasts, watches and warnings for not only their forecast area, but the offline office area as well. Forecasters from other offices worry this could cause problems during severe weather outbreaks when their time is already limited.