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Wind causes building, vehicle damage

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The entire roof of a hangar next to the flightline lifted off the structure and blew over the rest of the building during a wind storm Jan. 9, 2017. Damage to the natural gas lines caused officials to restrict movement in the area to keep the personnel safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The entire roof of a hangar next to the flightline lifted off the structure and blew over the rest of the building during a wind storm Jan. 9, 2017. Damage to the natural gas lines caused officials to restrict movement in the area to keep the personnel safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The entire roof of a hangar next to the flightline lifted off the structure and blew over the rest of the building and parking lot during a wind storm Jan. 9, 2017 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The air traffic controllers in the Federal Aviation Administration tower nearby had a clear birds-eye view of the hangar roof and saw the whole thing unfold in front of them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The entire roof of a hangar next to the flightline lifted off the structure and blew over the rest of the building and parking lot during a wind storm Jan. 9, 2017 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The air traffic controllers in the Federal Aviation Administration tower nearby had a clear birds-eye view of the hangar roof and saw the whole thing unfold in front of them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Parts to the roof of an aircraft hangar along the flightline and other debris litter the ground at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. A wind storm tore through the Front Range on Jan. 9, 2017 and wracked havoc on buildings, vehicles and trees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Parts to the roof of an aircraft hangar along the flightline and other debris litter the ground at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. A wind storm tore through the Front Range on Jan. 9, 2017 and wracked havoc on buildings, vehicles and trees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Communities across the Front Range of Colorado, including Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, experienced unusually fierce and damaging winds Jan. 9.

The wind damaged the roofs across base, particularly two hangars near the Peterson flightline, which caused officials to restrict movement in the area to keep the personnel safe. The air traffic controllers in the Federal Aviation Administration tower had a clear birds-eye view of the hangar roof and said they saw the whole thing unfold in front of them.

“The whole roof come up as one piece about 10 to 15 feet in the air and we thought it was going to land in the parking lot, and it all of a sudden dropped right on the edge of the building,” said John Robertson, FAA air traffic controller. “I’ve seen this other places, but it was because of a hurricane.”

The wind hit the building in what Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander, called a “tin-can approach.” He said when the wind hit the building, it went up the side and lifted the roof right off the structure.

Peterson Fire and Emergency Services responded to the hangar because the damage extended to the fire suppression system and caused damage to the natural gas lines. Gemeinhardt said the gas lines were shut off at the main and then individually inspected. For now, the hangar was deemed unsafe.

The damage assessment team traveled routes throughout the base to assess items needing immediate attention, and collecting data on the damage wrecked across base. He stated they are not at the damage repair point yet, however they were looking for things needing to be made safe so the mission could continue.

“There were some lessons learned from when we had the hail damage in getting both the engineers and the craftsmen to the location to do an initial damage assessment,” he said. “It allowed us to triage everything from light covers to gas regulators to a couple life safety issues. Once we pooled that data, we could feed it back to the command post and triage how we could make better and make safe.”

After assessing initial damages and safing any immediate hazards, Gemeinhardt and the 21st CES team set up a phone line for anyone with damage to call in and report.

“We created a spreadsheet with the calls as they came in,” he said. “At the same time, the (logistics readiness squadron) and (force support squadron) unit command centers stood up to bring data together, whether it was vehicle damage or anything else.”

Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station saw wind gusts up to 102 mph, Gemeinhardt said. They sustained minor structural damage to outside buildings and initially reported damage to at least 40 vehicles there.

Moving forward, the plan is to submit photos and a list of all the damage with estimates by building. It’s the same process the 21st CES is still going through with the damage caused by the July 2016 hail storm. He said many of the roofs were already scheduled for repairs as part of the hail damage, so those requirements will be rolled over and any new damage repair required will be added to the request.

“We will execute projects through this year and next to basically rebuild these roofs,” he said.

As far as mission impact, Gemeinhardt said the Colorado Springs Airport is flying limited flights. He cannot say how much the 302nd AW mission was impacted, but the damaged hangar was made safe and will be another building needing repair.

The 21st Space Wing’s global surveillance and missile warning missions; and CMAFS’ air defense, space surveillance, and missile warning missions inside the mountain were all unaffected.

Until the wind dies down entirely, Gemeinhardt said they can’t get a full assessment of damages and repairs needed. In the meantime, communication channels will remain open to take any more calls about wind damage.

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