Weather information these days is about as plentiful as air and bad supermarket music, a tap or click away on laptops, a dominant force on TV newscasts and a radio staple.
The backbone of this ubiquity remains the U.S. taxpayer-financed National Weather Service, still the prime source of warnings and all that data that we take for granted.
Thus we taxpayers and the nation's commercial weather services have a stake in the outcome of the weather service's "reorganization" talks, which ultimately could result in the closing of some offices and reassignments of meteorologists.
But one other interested party has pulled out of the talks – the National Weather Service Employees Organization, the union that represents the meteorologists and support personnel.
Union officials say that starting in May they attended several meetings with the agency to discuss the reorganization .
However, at a meeting in August, the participants were asked to sign a "confidentiality" agreement under which they wouldn't disclose what was discussed at the meeting.
Union members balked, saying they had the responsibility to brief their members on matters involving their very futures.
After refusing to sign the agreements, union officials were "uninvited," according to NWSEO's Lisa Luciani.
On Thursday, the union and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed formal complaints with U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner to lift the gag order.
The weather service insists that the confidentiality pledge was essential.
NWS spokesman Chris Vaccaro said the discussions were "pre-decisional" and cited U.S. Office of Personnel Management guidelines, which state:
" Pre-decisional discussions, by their nature, should be conducted confidentially. … This confidentiality is an essential ingredient in building the environment of mutual trust."