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Irma Thesaurus
This tweet provided by the National Weather Service shows some of the fearful words being used to get people to warn people about Hurricane Irma and shock them into action, just as they did last month for Hurricane Harvey. (National Weather Service via AP)

The National Weather Service has a shortage of meteorologists amid a busy hurricane season


The National Weather Service (NWS) is facing a staff shortage during a very busy hurricane season.

As of July, the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) said there were 668 vacant positions. Some of those vacancies, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, have gone unfilled for several months to a few years.

"One operational unit manager said that over the course of 6 years (2011 to 2016), her unit had 16 vacancies," the GAO report noted. "The vacancies remained unfilled for an average of 11 months, and 2 of the vacancies took over 2 years to fill."

Managers within some units of the NWS said to make up for the vacancies they've had to request temporary staff from other units and some employees have had to adjust their work and leave schedules.

"However, taking these steps, according to managers and staff, at times led to their inability to complete other key tasks, such as providing severe weather information support to state and local emergency managers," the GAO report noted.

But Christopher Vaccaro, an NWS spokesman, told CBS News that despite the vacancies, the agency is prepared to deal with the rest of the hurricane season.

"Our forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, local National Weather Service offices, River Forecast Centers and elsewhere are fulfilling the agency's mission of protecting lives and property as they issue timely and accurate forecasts for these storms," he told CBS News in a statement.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acknowledged that the NWS hiring problems are rooted in past hiring freezes.

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