By Brian Hagberg
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Heavy rains and flooding during the month of May have forced members of the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron to work overtime in order to maintain perimeter security and keep base roads clear of water.
“We’ve pulled roughly 1,500 tons of sand and debris out of the south perimeter drain to date,” said Tech. Sgt. George Moore, 50 CES Non-commissioned officer in charge pavements and equipment shop.
Most of that debris was a result of the severe storms in the area from May 8 to May 10. The storms produced large amounts of rain, hail, lightning and even a tornado warning on Schriever Air Force Base.
Moore said he was initially called in at 1:30 a.m. May 8 to clear the roundabout in front of the fitness center. He spent the next 13 hours alternating between clearing the water off the road and clearing debris from the fence.
“The rain was coming and going, storms were rolling in constantly,” he said. “Every time the rain would let up enough that we could get out there and clear [the water], we’d clear what we could clear.”
In total, 14 members of CE, affectionately known as “dirt boys,” were working on flood issues full-time during that weekend, including four members of the vertical shop who had to cut grating on drains in order to allow water flow, Moore said. Additionally, the CE section chief, Lt. Col. Nathan Clemmer, 50 CES commander and Col. Brian Barthel, 50th Mission Support Group commander, were also on site throughout the weekend.
“Everybody was soaking wet, in mud up to their knees, it was just a miserable day but everybody was out there,” Moore said. “Everybody in CE played their part.”
According to Clemmer, members of the heavy equipment, structures and electrical shops put in a combined 268 man hours during the weekend. As a result of the May 8 to May 10 storms, CE responded to seven emergencies, repaired the security grating on two large culverts on the south perimeter and used 100 tons of material to fill washouts.
Moore said the biggest challenge was trying to maintain the integrity of the south perimeter fence in a way that was safe for the team. Even though the team was trying to work between the storms, people in the drainage ditches had to keep an eye out for water flow so they wouldn’t get caught in a flash flood.
“We did catch some windows where we had no rain and we had the ditches dry so the guys would go in and work what they could,” Moore said. “If the water started coming, they got out of there. If you get caught up in [a flash flood] you might end up in New Mexico or Kansas. My No. 1 concern was the guys working; I didn’t want them to be put in harm’s way.”
Another safety concern came in the form of a tornado warning. The warning was issued at approximately 3:30 p.m. May 9, forcing those working to quickly take shelter. A small tornado touched down south of the base, but dissipated without reaching Schriever.
Through the efforts of 50 CES members, the south perimeter fence, which has been pushed over by water and debris twice in the last 18 months, did not fail. Because of the continued flooding issues, the 50th Space Wing has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to help find a long-term solution.
“The wing has funded a project for the Army Corps of Engineers to study and design a long-term fix for the southern area of the base,” said Robert Blevins, chief of engineering flight.
Clemmer said the previous failures of the fence have cost more than $200,000 to repair.
Moore said in addition to the fence, the flooding exposed two duct banks near the west gravel parking lot. His team put in an emergency work order to fill around those ducts in order to maintain power and communications to the base.
“We had an emergency work order executed in about three hours that consisted of renting an excavator, ordering 100 tons of base course, 100 tons of rip rap and 105 yards of concrete,” Moore said.
He said the work order was put in on a Thursday and by 5:30 p.m. Friday evening, the work was complete.
Moore said he continues to send people out to the drainage ditches to continue pulling debris out in case another round of severe storms rolls through. The continued efforts at flood mitigation have put some of the day-to-day issues on the back burner, but Moore hopes Schriever members will continue to be patient while they get caught up.
“Just about everyone on base has a drainage or erosion issue and we’re prioritizing them, getting to what we can, when we can,” he said. “The thing with us right now is we’re kind of on hold with some of our work because everything is so saturated. Our guys are working hard and diligently and everybody’s got to bear with us.”