21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Winter doesn’t officially start until December but a winter storm could happen any day.
According to Capt. Debbie Swetland, 21st Operations Support Squadron weather flight commander, this winter is anticipated to be warmer and drier than average, the snowiest periods being in mid-December, early February and early March.
When snow and ice are in the forecast, Team Pete works diligently to ensure the safety of those who drive to work on base each day by clearing and de-icing the roads and by determining when, or if, employees should report to work.
When it snows overnight, Col. Charles Arnold, 21st Mission Support Group commander, representatives from the 21st Civil Engineer and 21st Security Forces Squadrons, public affairs, and an individual from base weather have a conference call at about 4 a.m. to determine whether to open the base on time, have delayed reporting for nonessential personnel, or have a complete base closure.
Maj. Andrew Clemmensen, 21st CES operations flight commander, said they take into consideration school closures, road conditions, regional conditions and more.
Arnold 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., Clemmensen said, but is subject to change based on weather conditions.
If there is a delay or closure, the 21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office will send a notification to local media outlets, post it on 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, nonessential personnel should report to their duty stations no earlier than 9:30 a.m., two hours after 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, Clemmensen 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, Clemmensen 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,” Clemmensen said.
Before a storm even arrives, these Airmen and civilians are out on the roads, putting down pretreatment to prevent ice from forming, Clemmensen 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. Regardless of the conditions on base and the commander’s weather call, each person must assess their own situation and driving conditions for safety, using risk management processes.
“Slow down. That’s the biggest thing. We get to driving too fast, and we have four-wheel drive, but not four-wheel stop,” Clemmensen said.