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Winter weather right around the corner

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Winter doesn't officially start until Dec. 21, but a winter storm could happen any day.

According to Capt. Krista King, 21st Operations Support Squadron weather flight commander, this winter should start warmer than normal, but see overall average temperatures. The area is expected to see slightly drier conditions, with the snowiest periods being from the end of December through March.

When snow and ice are in the forecast, Team Pete works diligently to ensure the safety of those who drive to work on base each day by clearing and de-icing the roads and by determining when, or if, employees should report to work.

When it snows overnight, Col. Charles Arnold, 21st Mission Support Group commander, representatives from the 21st Civil Engineer and 21st Security Forces Squadrons, public affairs, and an individual from base weather have a conference call at about 4 a.m. to determine whether to have normal reporting, delayed reporting for nonessential personnel, or have a base closure.

Maj. Andrew Clemmensen, 21st CES operations flight commander, said the recommendation is based on the forecast, school closures, road conditions, regional conditions and the civil engineer squadron's ability to clear the snow from base roads and parking lots. Conditions at Schriever AFB, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Fort Carson are also taken into consideration.

Arnold then calls Col. John Shaw, 21st Space Wing commander, and gives a recommendation. A decision regarding opening the base is usually made by 4:30 a.m., Clemmensen said, but is subject to change based on weather conditions.

If there is a delay or closure, the 21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office will within minutes of the decision being made send a notification to local media outlets, post it on the 21st SW Facebook page (Peterson AFB: 21st Space Wing), and leave a message on the snow call line, 556-SNOW.

In the case of a delay, nonessential personnel should report to their duty stations no earlier than the publicized report time. Civil engineer professionals need that time and space to clear the roads and the parking lots. "We cannot clear a parking lot with vehicles in it, and it is dangerous to have traffic on base while conducting clearance operations," Clemmensen said.

When a storm rolls in during the day, there is the possibility of a phased early release. In this situation, nonessential personnel are sent home in three waves, starting with those living furthest away from the base. All of the plows and trucks are pulled off the roads to make it safe for everyone to leave, Clemmensen said.

The teams who keep the snow off the roads and sidewalks are the military and civilian members of the 21st CES operations flight. Teams of 25 people are on-call day and night in case of a storm.

"They all pitch in and take care of the roads, plus they do their jobs. We've got to keep the lights on; we have to keep the heat on," Clemmensen said.

Before a storm even arrives, these Airmen and civilians are out on the roads, putting down pretreatment to prevent ice from forming, Clemmensen said.

"It gets into the asphalt, and at a certain temperature it activates and heats the roads up."

Safety is the top concern, and for those not used to winter conditions, driving can be very dangerous. Regardless of the conditions on base and the commander's weather call, each person must assess their own situation and driving conditions for safety, using risk management processes.

"Slow down. That's the biggest thing. We drive too fast because we have four-wheel drive, but we forget we don't have four-wheel stop," Clemmensen said.

Here are some helpful tips if there is a snow delay:

If I am scheduled for gate guard duty, what do I do?
Augmentees should report a half hour prior to the report no earlier than time. If the snow call determines non-mission essential personnel report no earlier than 9:30 a.m., augmentees should report at 9 a.m.

What if I think it is too dangerous to drive?
Safety is of the upmost importance. Weather conditions can vary widely across the area and what is safe driving conditions for one person may not be for another. If individuals feel it is unsafe to attempt driving to work, they should contact their supervisor to discuss the situation.

What do I do if I have a medical appointment scheduled?
Any medical appointments that are prior to the report no earlier than time will need to be rescheduled. Individuals who have a cancelled appointment due to a snow delay can call 524-CARE or 526-CARE (2273) to make a new appointment.

If there is a delay or closure, will the Commissary or Exchange be open?
The Commissary and Exchange will open the same time as the report no earlier than time on days they are normally open.

What if there is a special event scheduled?
Any special event scheduled before the reporting time will be postponed or rescheduled.

When does the Child Development Center open?
For mission essential personnel, the CDC opens at 6:30 a.m. These families have a letter on file notifying staff they are mission essential. Even though there is staff there at 6:30 a.m., non-mission essential personnel should not bring their children in until the report no earlier than time. The CDC has their own mission essential staff who come in on delayed reporting days; however, they are not equipped to take care of extra children during that time.

My child goes to an in-home childcare provider on base, when can I drop them off?
In-home childcare providers set their own hours. Families should discuss this with their care provider.

Are school buses allowed on base when there is a delay or closure?
School buses will come on base at their normal time if the school district is not delayed regardless of the status of the base. If the school is running on a delayed schedule, buses will run accordingly.

What if I work at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station? How do I find out if they have a delay or closure?
A representative from CMAFS participates in the snow call with Peterson but ultimately makes their own decision for the reporting of CMAFS personnel. The CMAFS delay or closure information sources include the CMAFS snow line (719) 474-3333; 721st MSG Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/721MSG); new CMAFSAlert text message service (to sign up, text "follow CMAFSAlert" to 40404 [standard text message rates apply]) and local media outlets.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui