A snowstorm that swept across the Miami Valley closed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, giving a winter day off to thousands of employees at the state’s largest single-site employer.
Snowfall that caused deteriorating road conditions also shuttered the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force the largest tourist attraction in the region, and Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park sites, including the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in Dayton and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center near Wright-Patterson, according to federal officials.
“We got more snow than we expected on base and due to snow accumulations and the condition of the roads, both on the base and in the surrounding area, a decision was made to close the base,” said Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover.
Wright State University closed in Fairborn and dozens of school districts canceled classes Wednesday with closures that extended into evening activities throughout the Miami Valley.
Drivers faced snow-covered roads and freeways, causing dozens of weather-related slide-offs into ditches and crashes, on a slower-than-usual trek into work during the morning commute. Miami Valley snow totals ranged from a peak of 4.5 inches in Centerville to just over an inch at Dayton International Airport, according to National Weather Service tracking.
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WHIO-TV Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs forecast temperatures slowly climbing into 40s by the weekend, with another dip in temperatures Sunday.
“This swing in temperatures comes with another storm system and the chance for snow,” she said. “Early indications reveal the chance for rain on Saturday then switching to snow at night. Another light accumulation of snow is possible by the end of the weekend. Still too soon to say how much, but something to watch in the coming days.”
Julius Wilson, a civilian employee, trekked to Wright-Patterson from Montgomery, Ala., for three-weeks of training only to discover canceled classes Wednesday.
“I actually dreaded coming up here, but I packed pretty warm, so I’m pretty OK,” he said.
The sprawling military installation faced a large hurdle clearing roads, flight lines and parking lots during the snowfall, according to Vanover. Wright-Patterson Medical Center was operating as scheduled.
Wright-Patterson weather forecasters recorded 3.9 inches of snow in Area A with unofficial reports of up to five inches in Area B, she said.
Civil service and military personnel will be put on a paid administrative leave day, she said.
Base essential personnel, such as police and firefighters, were expected to report to work, she said. The base counts about 27,000 military and civilian personnel who work at the installation.
Initially, Wright-Patterson officials imposed a two-hour delay to start the work day before the decision was made to cancel. On a typical work day, most employees arrive between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.
The closure order was sent around 8:45 a.m., she said.
The initial decision to delay was based on weather conditions base authorities faced when they talked about the evolving situation between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., she said.
“The conditions at the time may or may not be what they could be or might be later in the day,” she said. “At that time in the morning, we’re making a decision based on the current situation that is presented to us.”
The installation commander determines if weather conditions should impact work arrival times, or if the base should be closed, she said.
“When those conditions change, we regroup and make (another) determination,” she said.
Wright-Patterson has shut down several times in recent years because of heavy snowfall, bitterly cold temperatures and freezing rain, Dayton Daily News archives shows.
The day off Wednesday followed a one-day workweek furlough of 8,600 civil service workers at Wright-Patterson on Jan. 22 in the midst of a three-day partial federal government shutdown.
WHIO-TV’s John Bedell contributed to this story.