The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building in Oak Ridge is closed due to the partial shutdown of the federal government, which is now three weeks old and approaching a record length.
NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is one of nine cabinet-level departments affected by the partial government shutdown. The shutdown, which mostly hinges on a dispute between President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress over whether to allocate $5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, also affects the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the federal judiciary, and other related government programs.
About 380,000 workers were to be sent home and not be paid for their time off during the shutdown, the New York Times reported. Another 420,000 deemed too essential to be furloughed are being forced to work without pay, the newspaper said. After past shutdowns, such workers have been reimbursed later.
It wasn’t immediately clear Friday afternoon how many NOAA workers in Oak Ridge, part of an air research laboratory that has a division here, have been furloughed and how many, if any, are being forced to work without pay. A sign posted on the front door announced that the building is closed due to the shutdown.
The Oak Ridge campus is on South Illinois Avenue in a historic building that was once an emergency hospital and then a health department. It now houses the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, or ATDD. The Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division is one of several field divisions of the Air Resources Laboratory. The ARL in turn is part of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.
The Air Resources Laboratory has headquarters in College Park, Maryland. It has satellite campuses in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Mercury, Nevada.
In July 2017, Oak Ridge Today reported that there were 33 employees at the Oak Ridge campus, including NOAA and ORAU workers. It wasn’t clear if that is still the case or whether the work of ORAU employees has been affected by the shutdown.
The primary focus of the ATDD in Oak Ridge is to maintain NOAA’s Climate Reference Network, a network of weather stations across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, to monitor climate change.
The Oak Ridge division also works with other NOAA groups that study the formation of tornadoes, using unmanned aerial vehicles to understand tornado formation. It also works with the Air Resources Laboratory headquarters on air quality modeling and forecasting.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which has major sites in Oak Ridge, is not affected by the partial government shutdown because DOE’s fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill was approved by Congress and signed by the president in September.
The American Museum of Science and Energy, which relocated to renovated space at Main Street Oak Ridge in October, is not affected by the government shutdown either, the museum said Friday.
In December, the National Park Service said national parks will remain as accessible as possible during the partial government shutdown while following all applicable laws and procedures.
During the shutdown, there were to be no visitor services provided by the National Park Service at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, including public information. The Manhattan Project Park includes Oak Ridge; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico.
NPS social media and websites are not being monitored or updated, and they may not reflect current conditions during the shutdown. All park programs have been canceled, according to a press release last month from Kris Kirby, superintendent of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Denver.
But the following locations were to remain open to the public and continue to provide visitor services, Kirby said in December:
- Hanford: The park visitor center, operated through a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, located at 2000 Logston Boulevard in Richland. The Visitor Center will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as part of its holiday operating schedule.
- Los Alamos:
- The Bradbury Science Museum, operated through a DOE contract, located at 1350 Central Avenue. The museum will be closed on Christmas Day as part of its holiday operating schedule.
- Los Alamos History Museum, operated by the Los Alamos Historical Society, located at 1050 Bathtub Row.
- Oak Ridge:
- The Childrens Museum of Oak Ridge located at 461 West Outer Drive. The museum will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as part of its holiday operating schedule.
- The American Museum of Science and Energy, operated through a DOE contract, located at 115 East Main Street. The museum will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as part of its holiday operating schedule.
The U.S. Department of Interior, which includes the National Park Service, is one of the departments that is affected by the shutdown.
Visit www.doi.gov/shutdown for updates on the shutdown.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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