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    Removing the ice and snow from winter 2021-2022



    Story by Meghan Festa 

    Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office

    Eielson Air Force Base
    The first major hit from the snow and ice storms over the winter holidays left Eielson Air Force Base with sections of frozen runway that were impacting the safe launch and recovery of aircraft. The U.S. Army Garrison Alaska Directorate of Public Works loaned our military neighbors two road graders and operators to assist Dec. 31 through Jan. 22.

    “Fort Wainwright is fortunate to have two prior [service] Air Force heavy equipment operators on their team with 30 years of combined airfield snow removal experience,” said heavy equipment foreman Vincent Hoffman.

    Their experience operating on military airfields allowed them to immediately go to work supporting Eielson’s airfield snow removal crews, says Hoffman. Joining with Eielson’s nine graders, they worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. To ensure the runway was operational to launch aircraft, the graders started with a 12,000-foot section of the 14,530-foot runway, or approximately 1.8 million square feet. Each pass of the 12,000-foot section could take up to 45 minutes, only scraping 1/8 of an inch each time. This was not an easy task seeing as some areas had to four to six inches of ice, and daytime temperatures were in the -30s Fahrenheit.

    “Everyone knew the importance of Eielson’s mission supporting the Pacific theater and the importance of getting the runway open,” Hoffman said. “Our ability to quickly come together as an Army and Air Force team was instrumental in making this happen so quickly.”

    As the winter progressed, Fort Wainwright began prepping the Donnelly and Yukon Training Areas for the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center – Alaska exercise. Designed to train units assigned to defending America’s arctic interests, JPMRC-AK provided critical warfighting training in an extreme cold weather environment. To maintain access to the maneuver training areas, 314 miles of road needed to be cleared.

    The large scope of work required a one-time snow removal contract. DPW worked with a local contractor to establish the labor and equipment requirements to clear an additional 200 acres and 39 miles of road. In addition, several pieces of equipment were rented and operated by the training area team.

    Snow Removal on Post
    Closer to home, DPW and Army privatized housing partner North Haven Communities evaluated the ever increasing accumulation on post roadways and the weight on installation roofs as the Interior continued to face more and more snow.

    NHC’s contractor, Mainscape, cleared approximately 30.5 million pounds of snow from residential roadways, almost exhausting their snow dump sites. Mainscape branch manager Abbie West said that while the snow was unprecedented, the frozen ice that formed over the winter holidays was their largest obstacle in the neighborhoods.

    “We were able to triage areas immediately following the weather event,” West said. “Luckily we have equipment operators experienced and dedicated to getting roads passible for traffic. We had to depend on heavy equipment as opposed to our more truck outfitted fleet for this event.”

    Communication with residents played a large role in the success of keeping roadways clear. NHC utilized Facebook, email and even texting to let residents know what to expect. NHC project director Ron Johnson says the team truly appreciates the patience and understanding of the residents as they dealt with the unprecedented challenges of this past winter.

    “Our team of North Haven Communities staff and contractors did an outstanding job dealing with this year’s challenges of record snowfall and the Christmas rain storm,” Johnson said. “Their hard work, dedication team focus was amazing and the lessons learned this year will only make us better and more ready next year to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us.”

    DPW’s engineering division conducted an analysis of the snow burden on rooftops around post. The analysis included site visits and sampling for various facilities focusing primarily on older buildings and those with flat roofs. DPW identified nine facilities to be at high risk of failure due to snow loads.

    Fort Wainwright garrison commander, Col. Nate Surrey, approved DPW’s recommendation for a roof snow removal contract. DPW partnered with Brice Civil Constructors, Inc. and the Fort Wainwright local contracting office to clear the roofs March 18 through 30. Atop the roofs, crews with snow blowers cleared snow onto tarps, which were then lifted off of the roofs by cranes.

    “The last known snow season that required shoveling was 1992,” said chief of engineering, Matthew Shaffer. “[This season,] DPW captured lessons learned and evaluated risks associated with each roof system. Based on historic snowfall, we’ll have a decision point next winter so we can be more deliberate about the contracting process.”

    Building 3030, with over 200,000 square feet, was the largest roof to be cleared. More than 4 million pounds of snow were removed from just that one rooftop.

    “DPW and North Haven have put in tremendous effort, not just for this year, but that will affect future year planning and execution based on lessons learned,” Surrey said.



    Date Taken: 05.13.2022
    Date Posted: 12.31.1969 19:00
    Story ID: 421540
    Location: FORT WAINWRIGHT, AK, US 

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