How many inches of snow did Ketchum receive from the recent storm, which was undoubtedly the largest thus far this winter? What about the total in December?
One of the most reliable trackers is the staff at the Ketchum Ranger Station, which has been shuttered since late December due to the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.
The ranger station uploads data on snowfall in Ketchum that dates back for decades to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, which has also been unavailable since the shutdown began Dec. 22.
“The office is currently closed due to a lack of federal funding,” a statement on the station’s voicemail system said Wednesday. “This office will re-open once federal funding is restored.”
This is one of a myriad of effects that has hit Blaine County over the past month, ranging from hardships for many federal workers, including some who have been working without pay and many who were slated to miss their first paychecks on Friday, and contractors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
More effects are likely if the shutdown continues, including a loss of funding for the federal district court system next week that could disrupt civil cases. Criminal cases will continue during the shutdown, The New York Times reported Thursday. Other parts of the government remain open because they are funded through the fiscal year, which ends in September.
The shutdown is set to be the longest in U.S. history if it reaches Saturday, and that seems likely given the political impasse between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders in Congress.
The shutdown started when Trump pressed Congress for $5.7 billion to fund construction of a wall or barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, which has been rejected by Democrats, who now hold a majority in the House of Representatives.
In December, the Senate passed legislation that would have averted the partial shutdown until Feb. 8, but only included funding for border fencing at $1.3 billion, which was the same level as 2018. The House passed legislation that included Trump’s $5.7 billion request, which the Senate did not pass before appropriations lapsed Dec. 21.
The standoff figures to continue into its fourth week on Monday, and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, advocated for Congress to vote on the bipartisan legislation that the House and the Senate have already negotiated.
“Border security and funding the government are not mutually exclusive and I hope we can achieve solutions to both of those issues in the coming days,” Simpson said in a statement.
In Idaho, the National Weather Service’s office in Pocatello has continued to operate, although a representative declined to comment on effects of the shutdown Thursday. The Department of Commerce announced it would maintain weather, water, climate observing, forecasting and prediction services at the start of the shutdown.
The Sawtooth Avalanche Center continues to provide forecasts on avalanche danger and other public education information. The center’s four employees work for the U.S. Forest Service, and Director Scott Savage declined to comment on pay during the shutdown.
“All four (Sawtooth Avalanche Center) forecasters are working,” Savage said. “We are continuing to provide critical public-safety products as usual, and our public avalanche education opportunities are not affected. I have been instructed not to comment on pay status during the partial government shutdown.”
To help those in need and those suffering a financial hardship during the shutdown, the nonprofit Hunger Coalition urges them to come to its food pantry Monday and Thursday afternoons.
This week, the federal government announced that it would fully provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding through the end of February, and the Internal Revenue Service would continue to process and issue tax refunds in the shutdown.
“The Hunger Coalition stands with everyone whose financial well-being will be compromised by the partial government shutdown,” spokeswoman Kristin McMahon said. “To all federal employees, contractors, SNAP (food stamp) recipients, and those relying on their tax refund to make it through the season, the Hunger Coalition has good food available Monday and Thursday afternoons to help soften the blow of suspended income.”
The Blaine County School District participates in the Department of Agriculture’s Free and Reduced Lunch program, which is funded through January, District Finance Manager Bryan Fletcher said. Thirty-one percent of students participate in the program.
“At present, the funding for our federal programs including child nutrition is through January, after which it is an open question,” Fletcher said.
School District spokeswoman Heather Crocker said the board of trustees may have to rely on savings to backfill lost federal revenue if the shutdown lingers into February.
“The good news is that the board of trustees has enough savings to cover any immediate shortfalls in revenue due to the government shutdown,” Crocker said. “The bad news is that other Idaho districts may not be so fortunate.”
As of Wednesday, the National Flood Insurance Program was still operating and servicing policies, according to Blaine County Floodplain Manager Kristine Hilt. FEMA is operating with reduced staff and technical assistance because of the shutdown, she said.
The post offices in Ketchum and Hailey continue to process passport applications normally.
Brewers at the Sawtooth Brewery are watching the shutdown as it progresses, because they will need the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau to sign off on new labels for their spring seasonal beer releases, Head Brewer and CEO Paul Holle said.
“We are watching this, as we will need to submit labels for approvals within two months,” Holle said. “Every day creates more of a backlog for a very small staff that approves labels, creating longer turnaround times, usually about two weeks, especially as breweries begin submitting their summer labels. … So about two-three more weeks of shutdown and we will begin bumping up against our deadlines for some spring releases.”