Jason Godwin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, answered the phone as usual on Saturday, and explained how his office will continue to operate during the federal government shutdown.
He said a Skywarn seminar scheduled Saturday in Collin County was canceled because it isn’t considered essential, but that otherwise, it’s business as usual.
“We’ll continue to provide forecasts and any watches and warnings,” Godwin said. “That’s why we’re here.”
He went on to talk about Saturday’s warmup, with temperatures in the high 60s, and even noted that a persistent south wind is likely pushing the dreaded mountain cedar pollen into our area.
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“Don’t be surprised at all if you see an increase in the mountain cedar count,” he said.
So no, the government shutdown wasn’t really noticeable in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Saturday. Campgrounds at lakes operated by the Corps of Engineers were open and a passport office at the Euless post office was 15 people deep.
But come Monday, many federal agency doors will be closed if Congress doesn’t reach a resolution this weekend.
Republicans blame Democrats for the shutdown; Democrats blame Republicans.
But both sides agree on one thing: “Paychecks could cease,” Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said. “Services will be disrupted.”
Mail will still be delivered, Social Security checks will still be sent out and “essential” employees such as air-traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration workers will stay on the job.
Officials announced that all Army & Air Force Exchange Service stores will stay open for military and retirees.
‘Will re-evaluate’ on Monday
But Texans soon could feel the impact of the shutdown in other ways.
“Non-essential” federal employees won’t head back to work until the shutdown ends, which could impact or delay some services from the Internal Revenue Service, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services.
North Texas is home to 46,000 federal jobs, including nearly 16,000 in the Fort Worth-Arlington region, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from December 2016 shows. Most of those employees are considered “non-essential,” and won’t receive paychecks until the shutdown ends.
Passports and visas could be harder to get, international adoptions might stall and customer service at countless federal agencies could be impacted.
Not only that, but you likely won’t be able to get information from federal facilities such as The National Archives at Fort Worth.
A message on the website for that agency Saturday stated: “Due to the shutdown of the Federal Government, National Archives facilities are closed, websites and social media are not being updated or monitored and activities are canceled, with the following exceptions: Federal Records Centers, Federal Register, the Ronald Reagan Museum, and the George W. Bush Museum.”
The George W. Bush Presidential Center put out a statement Saturday noting that the center — which includes the museum, Cafe 43 and the Bush Center Store — will stay open with regular hours during the shutdown. However, the research room and other archival activities will stay closed during the shutdown.
And access likely soon will be denied or blocked to those trying to visit corps-operated campgrounds, parks and recreation facilities.
But all local recreational facilities under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — such as Benbrook Lake — will stay open this weekend.
“We will re-evaluate the situation on Monday morning,” said Rhonda Paige, chief of public affairs for the Fort Worth District of the Corps of Engineers.
If necessary, she said, “we will conduct an orderly shutdown of operations at our recreation facilities at the appropriate time.”
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, under the Treasury Department, also has offices in Fort Worth. About the only lapse in services North Texans might immediately see is the suspension of tours of the bureau’s Fort Worth campus, said one tour scheduler over the phone Friday.
The last federal shutdown began Oct. 1, 2013 and lasted 16 days.
Cornyn stressed that Democrats are blocking the funding bill.
“For our democratic colleagues to hold the military funding and children's health insurance hostage is a complete and shameless reversal,” he said in a statement. “We have been negotiating in good faith on a solution for the DACA recipients, and we will continue to do so. But shutting down the government will not solve that problem, and millions of people, including our military, law enforcement, and emergency personnel could lose their paycheck.
“The time to stop playing games is now.”
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, agreed.
“Americans should make no mistake; the Democrats in Washington chose to put illegal immigration ahead of the needs of our nation,” said Williams, whose district stretches from the edges of Tarrant County through Austin. “Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have shown their true colors, and illustrated no understanding of the real-life implications of their motives.”
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, had a different take.
“Well, Donald Trump Tweeted in his own words that: ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’” Veasey posted on social media. “I hope we can work this out despite the lack of leadership we have coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania.
“Govt shutdown bad for DFW!”
And U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., disagreed with both sides.
From his home, where he’s fighting brain cancer, he released a statement saying the shutdown “is a direct result of the breakdown of cooperation in Congress.”
Staff writer Lee Williams contributed to this report.