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Snow and Ice Parade showcases WPAFB weather readiness

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Royalty Jones-Gavin, command support, 88th Air Base Wing, inspects an Oshkosh airfield snow broom with heavy equipment operator Dustin McIver, 88th Air Base Wing Civil Engineer Group, before test driving the big machine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Oct. 2, 2020. CEG drivers paraded the snow removal equipment across the airfield for review by 88 ABW Commander Col. Patrick Miller and local news reporters to demonstrate the equipment needed to keep the base and the airfield operational. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Royalty Jones-Gavin, command support, 88th Air Base Wing, inspects an airfield snow broom with heavy equipment operator Dustin McIver, 88th Air Base Wing Civil Engineer Group, before test driving the big machine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Oct. 2, 2020. CEG drivers paraded the snow removal equipment across the airfield for review by 88th ABW Commander Col. Patrick Miller and local news reporters to demonstrate the equipment needed to keep the base and the airfield operational. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Two significant events that will touch virtually everyone associated with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base this winter season took place Oct. 2: the 88th Civil Engineer Group’s briefing of the base commander on the 2020-21 Snow and Ice Control Plan and the Snow Parade.

To ensure seasonal preparedness, Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, and other base leaders discussed the plan, then observed the annual parade in front of Bldg. 145, Area A, where the base’s snow removal equipment is maintained and stored.

The parade was a sight to see as 14 pieces of well-maintained, heavy-duty snow removal equipment rumbled by. A 22-foot snow plow, chemical dispensers, giant snow blowers and smaller pieces of equipment were accompanied by the several dozen people who keep the airfield and base streets clear. The equipment came to a stop and formed a static display.

Miller walked up and down the line, greeting and thanking new and longstanding employees.

“With snow events, it’s all about execution on the airfield,” he said. “Equally important is that we have a safe environment for mission execution on the entire installation. We have the right equipment to do that, but seeing the people who operate it is a real treat.”

Miller said he appreciates the snow crew’s talent, passion and dedication.

“It’s important to see them and look them in the eye – we haven’t had a lot of chances to do that lately. So it’s great to be here and meet them face-to-face,” the commander said. “They are passionate about their job and I love that. I talk about mission-focused, people-driven, and these are the people getting it done.”

Miller said encourages personnel to check their snow news sources before heading to Wright-Patt during a snow or ice event.

“My promise to the team is we are going to make that call as early as we can so you don’t make a trip unnecessarily and put yourself in harm’s way,” he said.

Scott Vincent, 88 CEG director, said the parade allows the equipment operators to familiarize themselves again with what they’ll used to clear the airfield, more than 90 miles of roadways, 50 miles of sidewalks and parking lots when snow and ice appear.

“They are able to ops-check their equipment, demonstrate their capability to the wing commander and show the base populace at large that we are ready for the winter to come,” he said.

The professionals dedicated to snow and ice removal will go into “snow mode” with 24-hour staffing after Thanksgiving. The crews are divided into A and B 12-hour shifts and prepared to work day in and day out throughout the winter storm season.

“We will ensure the safe operation of the airfield as well as the safe transit of the base at large,” Vincent said. “This is a huge operation and it takes about 85 people to run it continuously.”

He credited the 88th Logistics Readiness Squadron with preparing and repairing the equipment.

“Bring on the snow,” Vincent said. “Our operators are some of the best of the best. They take a great deal of pride in the mission for Wright-Patt.”

Aime Haas, grounds supervisor for Area A, said ice is the greatest worry for the crew, but putting down potassium acetate as a pretreatment helps loosen ice so it can be scraped and removed.

“Safety is No. 1,” she said. “Our job is to make sure that when people come through the gate, they have absolutely nothing to worry about.”

Senior Airman Royalty Jones-Gavin, Commander’s Support Team, drove a brand-new snow broom dedicated to the airfield and said she learned how hard the snow crew works.

“They do a really good job, and it’s nice to meet them,” she said. “They deserve acknowledgement.”

Harold Honeycutt, Area A CE supervisor of pavements, equipment and grounds, said his crew monitors weather forecasts while they clean, maintain and repair their equipment.

“Our people are dedicated and come in early to do their job of cleaning the airfield, streets and sidewalks,” he said. “We want to make sure all 30,000 employees are safe and can get to and from work safely.”

“We also have to ensure aircraft can land here at any time as we are on short notice here,” Honeycutt continued. “The brooms lead the way, then the plows and then the blowers. The runway is two-and-a-half miles long and we can only go 10 miles per hour; it takes a lot of dedication to make sure everything is done correctly.”

2020-2021 winter may be a little snowier

­­­Jim Lane, senior operational meteorologist, 88th Operations Support Squadron, prepared a briefing that indicated the average snowfall at Wright-Patterson AFB is 24 inches, but he predicts a possible 21 inches this winter season.

Lane’s 2020 -2021 Winter Prediction:

SNOW: (Expect 21-25 inches, normal is 24.2). Due to the La Niña presence, Ohio should expect winter to get off to a slow start and not truly arrive until 2021. October, November and December temperature and precipitation amounts will be near normal with occasional swings above/below. Larger snowfalls may come from a few major coastal storms (Nor’easters). Alberta Clippers (relatively fast-moving, typically 1-2-inch snowfall) will be the primary snowmakers. Above-normal moisture expectation for late January to mid-March. This will be the “Winter of the Great Divide” — – cold and snowy in the North, drought in the West, with everything crazy in between!

TEMPERATURE: Overall temperature expectations for the winter should be slightly warmer than normal. Varying extremes can be expected; these extremes, even artic like polar outbreaks, may become more prominent in late January to mid-February.

FREEZING PRECIPITATION (ice storms): Systems tracking up the Mississippi Valley along the western side of the Appalachians could produce freezing precipitation for us versus snow. The I-70 corridor and I-71 corridor (Ohio Valley) could once again be the dividing line and temperature profiles aloft with slight changes as little as 1 degree could have significant impacts.

In case of inclement weather

When severe or inclement weather occurs, base employees should check with their immediate supervisor and notification pyramid protocols, log onto Facebook, contact the Snow Line at 656-7669 (SNOW) and check the base website – the official notification systems, rather than relying on local media sources who may not have full and accurate details.

Signing up for emergency alerts to email and/or mobile device is also advisable.

When winter weather gets here, exercise additional caution:

  • When driving, slow down and take your time.
  • Don’t crowd snow plows and other snow and ice removal equipment.
  • Be patient at the gates, especially the most used ones.
  • For delayed reporting and early release, stagger arrivals and departures to avoid congestion at gates.