They’re giving out tickets for surfing now. Well, not surfing, specifically, but “trespassing” on federal property, or as I like to call, “our” property, as taxpaying citizens and all. In this, the third week of mom and dad fighting in Washington, parts of the government not shut down have elected to close some Bay Area beaches that are technically managed by the federal government. Couple days ago, during a south wind-lashed swell that only works in some protected spots around these parts, the only place to surf when old man winter is thrashing, friends were slapped with $130 fines by some kind of federal police for the crime of stepping onto public beaches to surf.
So I guess surfing is out around here now since it’s been gale force south winds for weeks on end and exposed beaches are death on a stick. Those protected corners are the only places to surf and, apparently, they’re off limits.
That was my first little taste of how the shutdown might screw with my surfing life. It already had screwed with my camping life by shutting down parts of Yosemite recently. But that was to be expected since national parks are more obviously affected by the federal government but I’ve never given much of a thought to the feds while at the beach.
We may all feel the effects though as this ridiculous moment drags on longer and longer.
Federal scientists who study and predict hurricanes are already starting to fall behind on work for next year’s hurricane season, which means they likely won’t be able to work on the next generation of hurricane modeling expected to arrive soon. For residents in danger from hurricanes, that info would be awfully nice to have. Same for surfers who would benefit from advanced hurricane forecasts. All of this because during the shutdown, not only are they furloughed, but info isn’t being collected from satellites and buoys.
A huge national conference for meteorologists was just ghosted by nearly a quarter of participants because they’re either currently out of work, or because the data they’d otherwise be studying isn’t available with the government lights out.
As NOAA scientists miss out on data collection, the gaps make it awfully hard to restart research programs again once the government is switched back on.
"I guarantee nationwide throughout NOAA there are efforts to go to sea to take observations that are stopped and will never be done," said atmospheric researcher with NOAA and the University of Miami, Ben Kirtman, about the shutdown.
While buoy data about swell and wave size is likely considered critical to maintaining the safety of life and property and is therefore still being monitored by NOAA, experts say the skeleton crews monitoring that data are working harder and without pay during the shutdown as staffs are trimmed.
You don’t just drop a buoy into the sea and it seamlessly transmits obvious data to your phone telling you about conditions at your fave break. Researchers have to monitor that data, ascertain that everything is accurate and functioning properly. People must be trained to read the data and report on it. Weather models have to be tweaked, improved and updated to predict wind conditions at your beach.
All of that relies on fully staffed federal research stations, with employees being paid and giving proper attention to their work.
Plenty of national seashores and beaches are closed during the shutdown too, or are being operated by smaller crews than normal. We’ve seen what that means for national parks as pollution has run rampant without employees there to clean up after visitors.
Tickets for trespassing. Poor weather and swell modeling. Potential pollution and trash at the nation’s best beaches. None of this is good. Mom and dad really need to figure something out.