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141 ARW - What a Snow Job

Snow '08

Members off the 141st watch over a snowblower during the two week road clearing. Photo By Sr Amn Anthony Ennamorato

5 June 2008 -- 141st volunteers recently answered the community's call to service. Snowfall is usually not big news for Spokane, Washington, but this year the snow created a state of emergency. The last week in January the snow began to fall and before snowplows could clear the roads the next storm came through. After three major storms hit the area within a week, Governor Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency for Eastern Washington counties.
The governor called the 141st Air Refueling Wing, Washington Air National Guard into service with industrial snow blowing equipment. In rural areas of Spokane County, snow drifts deeply covered roads and people were homebound for days, some without electrical power.
Elderly residents were concerned that emergency vehicles would not be able to reach them if needed. The rotary blades were able to cut through the accumulation of snow, 8 - 9 feet in areas. High winds continually blew roads closed and the snow blowing equipment needed to return to many of the same areas already serviced. Washington Air National Guard snow crews worked for two weeks and cleared more than 80 miles of roadways.
This wasn't the first time the Washington Air Guard answered the Governor's call for help due to weather-related emergencies. In 1996, Spokane residents remember the Ice Storm that was known as the worst winter storm in the history of the Inland Northwest. The combination of wet snow and freezing rain caused power outages to roughly 100,000 homes, some for two weeks.
The unit supplied emergency generators at that time and has also been called to help during floods and wild fires and the notorious Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. "It feels good to get out and help our hometown. That's why they call us the hometown Air Force," snow crewmember Technical Sergeant Rick Hewson said. Hewson has returned from driving convoys in Iraq, where he survived an explosion from a roadside improvised explosive device. He especially enjoyed being able to rescue his own community residents, "It's a great feeling to be able to help out," Hewson concluded. Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard met with the members of the 141st Air Refueling Wing to personally thank them for their assistance during the January snow emergency.
Commissioner Richard presented a trophy that read "For generous service to the citizens of Spokane County during the Snow Emergency of February 2008, presented with gratitude by the Board of County Commissioners on March 18th.