CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports that half of the center's usually mild-mannered staff of 46 rose up in revolt against new director Bill Proenza this week, signing their names to a statement urging the Commerce Department to replace him and saying "the effective functioning of the national hurricane center is at stake." The list includes four of the five senior hurricane forecasters — and Proenza's own secretary.
"He's divided the staff, and it's hard to see how we can come together again with him still here," said senior forecaster James Franklin.
The dispute started because of an aging weather satellite called QuickScat. It has a lifespan of three to five years, but has now been in orbit for eight. Proenza launched a public battle with the federal government to have it replaced, arguing that losing it would hurt the center's ability to accurately forecast hurricanes — an argument his own senior scientists say is misleading.
"The problem is it is more than the satellite, and the scientists got concerned that there was not attention being paid to the things they thought were more important," said Bryan Norcross.
Things like hurricane hunter planes, which allow forecasters to see inside a storm in the crucial few days before landfall. With the height of the hurricane season drawing closer, the feud is making emergency managers skittish.
"The hurricane season starts cranking up in the latter part of July and the first part of August, and that's only a few weeks away," said Larry Gispert, emergency management director of Florida's Hillsborough County. "They need to do something."
It is not just Proenza's politics, but his personal style that has rubbed some the wrong way.
"The Hurricane Center is fully capable to deliver its mission to the American people," he said.