Col. Thomas P. Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, thanks one of the snow removal equipment operators along the parking ramp during the annual Snow Plow parade at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Nov. 4. The Wright-Patt Snow Removal Team ensures Wright-Patt’s streets and runways are kept safe and operable during snowstorms. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ty Greenlees)

Annual Snow and Ice Parade showcases WPAFB weather readiness

Unlike municipalities that just clear streets, the 88th Civil Engineer Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base clears the airfield, more than 90 miles of roadways, 50 miles of sidewalks and parking lots when snow and ice appear.

To ensure the group’s preparedness, Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, and other base leaders observed the annual Snow and Ice Parade Nov. 4 along the parking ramp in front of Bldg. 206, Area A, where the base’s weather station is located.

The parade was a sight to see as 14 pieces of heavy-duty snow removal equipment rumbled by. A 22-foot snow plow, chemical dispensers, giant snow blowers and smaller pieces of equipment were accompanied by the several dozen people who keep the airfield and base streets clear. The equipment came to a stop and formed a static display.

Sherman walked up and down the line, greeting and thanking new and longstanding employees.

Air Combat Command commander tours AFRL at Wright-Patt

“This is a really great opportunity for a lot of our professionals – who are in many ways unsung heroes – that keep Wright-Patterson Air Force Base operational during inclement weather,” Sherman said. “The mission doesn’t stop at Wright-Patt. It takes everyone around us; this collective team keeps our airfield operational, keeps our 24/7 operation facilities going, allows the mission to continue so all the professionals who work on this base can get here and do it safely.”

The installation commander said he appreciated the range of equipment prepared to meet winter’s challenges.

“Not only do we have a diversity of equipment, but we have some amazing experience – people who have been out here for as many as 35 winters,” he said. “They know this base and know how to keep it operational.”

As he met and chatted with the CE snow team members, Sherman told them he has full confidence that they will take care of their jobs.

The professionals dedicated to snow and ice removal will go into “snow mode” with 24-hour staffing after Thanksgiving. The crews are divided into A and B 12-hour shifts and prepared to work day in and day out throughout the winter storm season.

Last year their expertise played a vital role in getting aircraft airborne, Sherman recalled.

“Because of the missions of the Air Force and especially the U.S. Transportation Command, we actually had a number of missions going out last year that required this team to do some very expeditious clearing of the runway so that those critical C-17s (of the 445th Airlift Wing) could do the bidding that our Air Force needed them to do,” he said. “We saw that very much during the winter of 2018.

“This is a human story – the equipment is neat to look at, but it’s the people that make it so valuable,” Sherman said.

Jeff Hart, snow tractor operator/gardener, just celebrated his second year of employment on base and is about to handle his third winter.

“We have mounted new blades and have made sure we have everything ready to go. Grass season is winding down while snow season is ramping up,” he said.

Hart said the team can take on whatever Mother Nature sends their way.

“It’s Ohio – one minute it’s snowing and freezing, the next minute it’s 50 degrees out. You never know what it’s going to be,” he said.

Brian Robinson, 88 CEG heavy repair chief, said his crew takes pride in their job.

“We know what’s at stake,” he said.

Winter may be a little snowier

Jim Lane, senior operational meteorologist, 88th Operations Support Squadron, said the average snowfall at Wright-Patterson AFB is 24 inches, but he predicts a possible 28 inches this winter season.

The season will be up and down in terms of conditions, precipitation and temperatures, lending itself to be labeled a “polar coaster.”

“Overall we are going to see a slightly warmer winter, with no El Nino and La Nina influence,” he said. “Because of that we are going to battle warm and cold – warm from the subtropical jet, cold from the polar front jet, maybe even the artic jet at times. We may be on a ‘polar coaster/rollercoaster’ ride.”

Lane also predicts that winter in the traditional sense will arrive late in mid-January but coming temperature fluctuations are going to lend themselves to the polar coaster.

In case of inclement weather

When severe or inclement weather occurs, base employees should check with their immediate supervisor and notification pyramid protocols, log onto Facebook, contact the Snow Line at 656-7669 (SNOW) and check the base website – the official notification systems, rather than relying on local media sources who may not have full and accurate details.

Signing up for emergency alerts to email and/or mobile device is also advisable.

When winter weather gets here, exercise additional caution:

• When driving, slow down and take your time.

• Don’t crowd snow plows and other snow and ice removal equipment.

• Be patient at the gates, especially the most used ones.

• For delayed reporting and early release, stagger arrivals and departures to avoid congestion at gates.

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