By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Winter is just around the corner, and Colorado Springs has already seen a dusting of snow. Last year, there were six measurable snowfalls, and this year more are anticipated. When a winter storm does arrive, the decision is made early whether to open the base on time, have delayed reporting or a complete base closure.
About 4 a.m., Col. Kimerlee Conner, 21st Mission Support Group commander, representatives from the 21st Civil Engineer and 21st Security Forces Squadrons, and an individual from base weather have a conference call. John Coutee, 21st CES operations flight deputy chief, said they take into consideration school closures, road conditions, conditions at Schriever AFB and more. Conner then calls Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander, and gives a recommendation. A decision regarding opening the base is usually made by 4:30 a.m., Coutee said.
If there is a delay or closure, the public affairs office will send a notification to local media outlets, post it on the Peterson AFB website, the 21st SW Facebook page, and leave a message on the snow call line, 556-SNOW, within minutes of the decision being made.
In the case of a delay, Coutee said the longer everyone waits to come to base, the better, not only for their safety, but also for the snowplow drivers. Mission nonessential personnel will report to their duty stations at 9:30 a.m., two hours after their normal reporting time.
Civil engineer professionals need that time and space to clear the roads and the parking lots. They know how long it takes to clear the base, so they can finish before personnel start arriving, Coutee said.
When a storm rolls in during the day, there is the possibility of a phased early release. In this situation, nonessential personnel are sent home in three waves, starting with those living furthest away from the base. All of the plows and trucks are pulled off the roads to make it safe for everyone to leave, Coutee said.
The teams who keep the snow off the roads and sidewalks are the military and civilian members of the 21st CES operations flight. Teams of 25 people are on-call day and night in case of a storm. “They all pitch in and take care of the roads, plus they do their jobs. We’ve got to keep the lights on, we have to keep the heat on,” Coutee said.
Before a storm even arrives, these Airmen and civilians are out on the roads, putting down a pretreatment to prevent ice from forming, Coutee said. “It gets into the asphalt, and at a certain temperature it activates and heats the roads up.”
Safety is the top concern, and for those not used to winter conditions, driving can be very dangerous. “Slow down. That’s the biggest thing. We get to driving too fast, and we have four wheel drive, but not four wheel stop,” Coutee said.
(Tierra Vista Communities has its own snow removal policy and procedures for base housing. For more information on TVC’s snow removal policy, call 597-7200.)