Florida Sen. Bill Nelson says President Donald Trump's hiring freeze could hurt the government's response to a dangerous hurricane.
Sen. Nelson spoke out Monday on the vacancies in the National Weather Service, the same day Trump signed an executive order that stops all federal agencies from hiring, except for the Pentagon, the Miami Herald reported.
"The National Weather Service's around-the-clock forecasts save lives in Florida and around the nation," Nelson said, according to the Herald. "Failure to fill vital vacancies within the agency means those hands won't be around when the monster storm hits. Not only would that be irresponsible, but it could put people's lives at risk."
According to the NWS, there are a total of 638 vacancies, roughly 16 percent of the workforce. There are 65 vacancies in the Southern Region.
Of the 638 vacancies, 570 are "emergency essestial" employees, meaning they must report to work during hurricanes, floods and other emergencies.
Trump’s nominee to head the Commerce Department, billionaire Wilbur Ross, said last week that he would move quickly to fill the NWS vacancies.
"Timely and accurate weather information is crucial to protect both lives and property, and is also essential to the smooth functioning of numerous areas of commerce, including aviation, shipping, fishing and farming, to name just a few," Ross said in a statement. "Proper staffing of the NWS is therefore important and, if confirmed, I intend to review the current efforts and see how they can be improved."
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1.