By Susan C. Galentine
Directorate of Public Works public relations
Plows on Fort Carson clearing roads of snow and ice are part and parcel of Colorado winters and the need for safe travel on post.
The Directorate of Public Works operations and maintenance contractor, Fort Carson Support Services, is tasked with keeping roads safe for drivers on Fort Carson. The contractor monitors forecasts for winter storms from the National Weather Service, local television station weather reports and from the Butts Army Airfield Weather Station, often planning and preparing days in advance of a forecasted winter storm.
The forecast for the storm is only as good as the meteorological interpretation of the data, which can frustrate efforts to manage road conditions during the course of a storm, said Terry Hagen, DPW Operations and Maintenance Division base operations branch chief.
As part of the planning process for a pending storm, FCSS sends reports to DPW and the Fort Carson Operations Center on its plan of action, road-clearing progress throughout a storm and until the final clean up is accomplished. Hagen said the purpose of the reports is to give FCOC insight on the response so that the installation command can make the appropriate calls for Soldiers and civilians reporting for work.
The road crews begin plowing operations when the snow depth reaches 3 inches.
If snowfall begins overnight, FCSS responds at the appropriate time preparing roads for the morning commute into Fort Carson. When roads require plowing, its operations continue until snow has stopped falling and the snow routes are safe for vehicle traffic.
After the snowfall stops, plowing occurs between 4 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The contractor also checks the emergency snow routes in the morning to address any icy conditions.
When plowing operations occur during normal workday hours, plowing operations keep emergency snow route roads as safe as possible throughout the day.
During 6 p.m. to 4 a.m., the contractor will continue to work ongoing snow and ice events. If clean up from a prior storm is still needed, it will not be worked until 4 a.m. the following day.
“When it snows on post, it is impossible to take it down to black pavement,” said Don Phillips, DPW Operations and Maintenance Division snow control monitor, of the realities of plowing operations.
Icy conditions pose a particular challenge to road crews, which focus primarily on de-icing intersections, hills and curves, where vehicle tires can spread the de-icer along the road.
“Every snow event that occurs, we put from 50-75 tons of de-icer on the roads,” Phillips said.
De-icer cannot be applied to all roads; the concentration is on emergency snow routes only.
As part of snowstorm management, the crews rely heavily on temperatures rising during the day and sunshine to melt the snow and ice on secondary roads.
“Solar melt is our big resource for roadway melt in a typical event,” said Hagen.
Colorado winters can wreak havoc with the start and end of the duty day on post, adding a twist to effective road-clearing efforts.
“Sometimes the timing of the storms hits right before or during peak traffic hours and we have a lot of cars on the road, which makes it very difficult for the contractor to clear the roads,” said Phillips.
This scenario can create an issue where snowplows have to navigate around heavy traffic to deal with the snowpacked, slippery roads.
Ultimately, the key to driving success in Colorado winters amounts to safe and practiced drivers that plan for extra time to arrive at their destination, effective installation snow removal management and relying on the state’s abundant sunshine to keep the roads safe for everyone, Hagen said.
For more information about DPW snow removal procedures, call 526-9271.
Balfour Beatty Communities manages Fort Carson Family Housing snow removal. Fort Carson Family Housing residents can call 579-1606 ext. 221 for more information.