There were two more days of summer, according to the calendar, but residents in some parts of Colorado Springs awakened to see snow covering windshields and sidewalks Sept. 21. People who live in Monument and Woodland Park saw a few inches of snow that day. Some ski resorts cranked up their snow makers, looking toward an early opening.
Welcome to Colorado.
Many members of the Fort Carson community are newcomers; some of them used to warmer temperatures, perhaps a dusting of snow once or twice each winter. School buses usually ran unless there were several inches of ice on roads, and people weren’t sure what “snow day” meant.
Colorado Springs is at more than 6,000 feet elevation. There’s snow on Pikes Peak most of the year. Snow in Colorado is inevitable.
When October temperatures sometimes reach 80, it’s difficult to believe this month may also bring snow, black ice and freezing rain.
Take a look at the October blizzard of 1997. Weatherforecasters predicted snow, which turned into a blizzard with 40 mph winds, blinding snowstorms and sub-zero weather. Snow was 15-20 inches deep, the airport closed and streets were impassable. Four people died locally in weather-related incidents.
The Colorado governor asked Fort Carson’s commanding general for help. Sixty Humvees with chain-wrapped tires and 200 Soldiers joined with city workers for two days, rescuing almost 100 people while battling fatigue, bitter cold and snowdrifts.
The Mountain Post has a plan in place to avoid putting Soldiers and employees at risk during bad weather.
In the event heavy snowfall begins falling during the night, several people at Fort Carson monitor weather and road conditions.
Fort Carson Operations Center personnel monitor Colorado State Patrol and the National Weather Service reports. About 2 or 3 a.m., Garrison Commander Col. Robert F. McLaughlin is given an assessment and recommendations regarding weather conditions.
If McLaughlin decides to have delayed reporting or curtailment of operations, the FCOC notifies directors, tenant units, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 and Public Affairs.
The on-call representative in Public Affairs contacts area television and radio stations with the delay decision made by the garrison commander.
Usually, the decision is a one- or two-hour delay in reporting for duty. Road crews will clear roads and parking lots or spread sand during that delay. Soldiers and employees should honor the reporting delay.
The two-hour delay isn’t meant for extra sleeping time, but to allow Soldiers and civilians extra time to safely arrive at their place of work.
Sometimes broadcasters use the term “essential” or “non-essential” when referring to people who should or should not report to duty at Fort Carson.
The term “essential personnel” refers to people designated as critical to operation of the post, such as fire and police operations, snow removal, dining facilities, medical and command and control personnel. Employees who are deemed essential should be aware they are designated essential and should check with a supervisor or commander if unsure about their status.
Non-essential employees would be everyone who is not “essential.”
In addition to watching local TV stations or listening to radio stations, anxious employees can call the weather hotline, 526-0096, which should be updated as conditions change. A recording gives current road conditions.
There are three possible road conditions: green, amber and red.
- green road conditions mean that roads are safe to travel.
- amber road conditions mean that unnecessary travel should be avoided. Moderately hazardous road conditions exist, but Soldiers and employees should report for duty.
- red road conditions mean roads are icy or deeply covered in snow. Only mission-essential personnel should be traveling.
During amber or red road conditions, battalion/squadron executive officers or higher must authorize on-post dispatches for military vehicles not engaged in mission essential activities. Brigade commanders are the authorizing official for dispatching military vehicles off the installation.
In extreme weather conditions, the post may be closed. In that case, Soldiers and employees will not report for duty that day. It will be the Soldiers’ and employees’ responsibility to keep updated by contacting their chain of command or listening or watching for updates on local television or radio stations.
Once notified by Fort Carson Operations Center that the garrison commander has authorized late reporting or closing, Public Affairs notifies local television and radio stations. The stations use that information in their broadcasts or run a “crawl” along the bottom of the screen.
“Fort Carson information about reporting for duty should be available on major radio and local television stations within 10 minutes after Public Affairs receives notification,” said Dee McNutt, Garrison Public Affairs Officer.
When a storm develops during the daytime, early release may be authorized by the garrison commander. Notification will be made to employees and Soldiers through duty sections through the chain of command.
To safely manage the flow of traffic, personnel will be released in three “waves”:
1. Personnel released first will be those who reside 15 miles or more from Fort Carson.
2. The second wave will be released half an hour after the first wave, and will include those who reside five-15 miles off post.
3. The third wave release will be an hour after the first, and will include all other employees and Soldiers.