News: Hurricane Sandy kind to Joint Base; Nation’s capital
Story by Joseph P Cirone
WASHINGTON – Hurricane Sandy was kind to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB), located in Washington’s southeast corner, as it was to most of the national capital region.
Joint Base Commander, Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra said, “Overall, JBAB rode the storm well. There was some minor damage to facilities, mostly missing roof tiles or detached gutters and two dozen downed trees and road signs.”
“There were reports of leaky roofs, windows and doors in some housing areas, which were reported and addressed by the non-governmental housing partners responsible,” said Calandra.
Good stewardship of base assets, including proper maintenance and repair of the facilities and landscape, combined with the ongoing mitigation of risks; having advanced warning of the storm and the preparation efforts undertaken by JBAB departments, mission partners and residents, likely contributed to minimize damage.
Ensuring that common base operations services, including utilities and other services are fully functional or restored quickly, is vital to the mission of JBAB and its mission partners. Those missions include providing national security, homeland security, lifesaving, homeland defense, presidential and ceremonial support.
FLOODING – BIGGEST CONCERN
Located on the banks of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, JBAB’s biggest concern was the potential for moderate coastal flooding.
Throughout the storm, Sandy’s winds pushed water up the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and when combined with the twice daily astronomical tides, created what weather forecasters called, “Tidal anomalies of three to four feet.”
A shift in the winds began allowing the water to begin flowing back downstream Wednesday, forecasters said. The flow is expected to continue for a few days.
While the base had small areas of minor flooding, Calandra said, “We had about 12 feet of sea wall remaining at high tide on Monday, during the height of the storm, so water coming over the wall seemed unlikely.”
National Weather Service forecasters’ predictions of wind gusts between 60-70 mph were realized when weather instruments at Regan National Airport, across the river from JBAB, recorded a 61 mph gust. Sustained winds of 50 mph were also documented.
Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., Tuesday, wind gusts in Montgomery County, Md. reached 68 mph. In Washington’s upper atmosphere, near 1,000 feet above ground, winds of 80 mph were recorded.
Monday into Tuesday, rainfall rates reached two inches per hour, with a total accumulation of five to eight inches of rain throughout the area, the weather service reported.
PREPARED FOR THE WORST
JBAB personnel began preparing in earnest for Sandy, four days before its arrival. In some aspects, planning began well before.
JBAB Emergency Manager, Sigmund Evans, said, “Planning for all possible hazards, emergencies, disasters and incidents never stops. We use a continuous cycle that includes identifying and mitigating the hazards; planning our response to those we cannot fully mitigate; conducting various response and recovery exercises and drills; evaluating the results of those exercises and incorporating the lessons learned by revising our plans, thus starting the cycle again.”
Severe weather events are one hazard that can be planned and exercised for, but not fully mitigated. Accordingly, JBAB’s Public Works Department and other departments and mission partner agencies on base, as well as its residents, took proactive steps to ready themselves, the base facilities and their homes for the pending storm.
Sandbags were filled and placed, along with road barricades in flood prone areas, to reduce the likelihood that vehicles or people on foot would be caught in a flood.
Emergency, communications, vehicular, power tools and other equipment were fueled, tested and prepositioned in safe locations to ensure they would be ready for action when needed.
Security, Fire and Emergency Services resources were ready to respond to any threat or emergency. Emergency essential personnel, including DOD Police Officers, Air Force Security Forces, Firefighters, Paramedics, lodging, food service, public works and Incident Management Team personnel, reported ahead of the storm’s arrival and remained at the base until released.
An on-base shelter location was identified, along with a backup location, should it be needed. Additionally, an additional shelter location, established by the district emergency management agency, was available near the base for JBAB residents and their district neighbors in Washington’s Ward 8.
As “The Premier Joint Base” and like all military bases, a good neighbor, JBAB offered emergency assistance (Defense Support to Civil Authorities) to the district’s government and its neighbors in Ward 8, represented by Councilman Marion Barry and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, throughout the storm and after, if it were needed.
COMMAND AND CONTROL THROUGHOUT; RETURN TO NORMAL
Calandra and Evans, along with Air Force Col. Michael Saunders, JBAB vice commander and other members of the JBAB Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff, which comprised the base’s Incident Management Team, monitored the storm’s progress and when it arrived, its effects on JBAB, while continuing to coordinate response and recovery actions at the base.
A full night’s sleep, relaxing bed and the comforts of home had to wait – The mission and preventing the loss of life came first.
JBAB’s EOC maintained communications with the Naval District Washington (NDW) Regional Operations Center and other emergency command centers, including the district’s Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency.
Beginning at first light on Tuesday, DOD police and JBAB firefighters from the Naval District Washington Fire and Emergency Services Central Battalion, joined members of the public works department and others to perform a comprehensive damage assessment and begin restoration efforts to ensure the base remained fully operational and able to perform its missions.
Wednesday morning, the base resumed normal operations and workers returned to the base – many for the first time since the weekend began. However, some were dressed as goblins, ghosts and pirates, in addition to the normal Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers, Coast Guardsmen and Marines.
Early Tuesday, while recovery efforts continued, but after the storm’s greatest impact was gone, Calandra made the decision that plans for Wednesday’s Halloween activities for the benefit of the many children living on base would continue as planned. “That includes our parade and trick or treating,” he said.
The decision was popular among not only children, but parents as well. One parent wrote in an online post on Tuesday morning, “My daughters would be crushed if they didn't get to trick or treat tomorrow."
To help ensure the safety for children, especially when they are crossing streets, JBAB DOD Police Sgt. Ana Tarango, organized parents and other volunteers to augment police during trick or treat activities.
The adults, designated as “the Pumpkin Patrol,” served as crossing guards, equipped with flashlights and reflective vests, after undergoing some basic training before being pressed into service, Tarango said. “This was especially important after the sun went down and the children in costumes might not have been as easy to see,” she said.
Other adult volunteers and children assisted in checking the safety of candy and getting McGruff the Crime Dog around the base streets, as the large white dog with black spots, has challenges walking correctly on its hind legs for long periods of time, Tarango reported.