141st - Snow Removal
By , 141ARW
/ Published May 15, 2008
Feb 3, 2008 -- Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. -The Washington Air National Guard has been tasked by Governor Gregoire to provide snow clearing assistance to the local civil authorities due to the heavy snow conditions that resulted during the week of Jan. 25 through Jan. 31, 2008.
Personnel and assets from the 141st Air Refueling Wing will be sent to help Spokane County clear the snow beginning on Feb. 2, 2008.
The primary asset that will be used in the snow removal is an Oshkosh High Speed Snow Blower, capable of throwing 5000 tons of snow per hour as far as 200 feet. This equipment along with two support vehicles will be sent to areas starting west of Fairchild AFB and toward and Spangle, Wash..
The distinct difference between the National Guard and its active duty counterparts is the dual mission the Guard has in supporting both Federal and State authorities. The unit has been activated by the governor in the past to assist in emergencies within the state's borders such as wildfires and ice storms. The unit was also called upon to assist other states during Hurricane Katrina as part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). The 141st Air Refueling Wing's nearly 900 members are citizens serving citizens with pride and tradition.
The National Guard was called in against the snow Saturday, with Idaho soldiers taking up shovels to clear school roofs in Sandpoint and a Washington Air Guard crew opening snow-clogged roads in rural Spokane County.
Forty members of the Idaho National Guard arrived at Sandpoint High around 2 p.m. Saturday, much to the relief of school officials and contract employees who had been shoveling for hours. The snow on 130,000-square-foot Sandpoint High piled to three or four feet, and it was just as bad at other area schools.
"We weren't in a spot where we were anticipating any roof collapses, but we wanted to make sure we're in a position to handle the snow loads," said Dick Cvitanich, superintendent of Sandpoint schools.
An auditorium roof at the high school collapsed during the last big snow year, 1996-97. Idaho guard members helped then, too.
Meanwhile, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire called out a crew of Washington Air National Guard members stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base. The crew of nine with the 141st Air Refueling Wing spent Saturday clearing deep snow on roads in rural Spokane County and planned to get at roads in the Spangle area this weekend. Gregoire has declared a statewide emergency due to fallout from the snowstorms.
The Idaho guard members, out of the Lewiston-based 145th Brigade Support Battalion, are on a seven-day mission. They were hoping to finish their work in Sandpoint within a couple of days and turn to the next priority, which hadn't been decided Saturday, said Capt. Bill Muthiora.
Sandpoint and Bonner County saw some of the region's heaviest snowfall over the past week, and officials there say their resources are stretched thin. School officials tried to stay ahead of the snow, hiring contract employees to clear it, but they had difficulty keeping up with roofs that needed to be cleared.
County commissioners, whose snow-removal resources are strapped, declared a state of emergency on Thursday. Gov. Butch Otter followed suit Friday for several North Idaho counties and called in the National Guard.
On Saturday afternoon, Cvitanich and some contract crews had been shoveling on the roof for hours when word came the Guard vehicles had been spotted nearing Sandpoint.
"This will be good," he said, smiling. "This will be good. I'm looking forward to this."
The guard members came with stacks of shovels, 10 snowblowers and two front-end scoop loaders. Muthiora said all the soldiers volunteered, and that most are North Idaho residents.
"This is what the National Guard does," he said. "People have kind of forgotten about that because of the larger mission going on in the world."
A growing problem for crews all over Bonner County is finding places to put the plowed snow, officials said. In Sandpoint, snow is piled everywhere - head-high berms line some neighborhood streets.
At the high school, snow removal was going in shifts: shoveling or snowblowing the flat roof in the center onto the pitched roof sides, clearing the pitched roof, then moving the snow with heavy equipment away from the building.
"That's our next big problem," said Sid Rayfield, facilities director for Sandpoint schools. "When we get it off the roof, it comes right up to the roof."
Snow clearing crews from the Washington Air National Guard will continue to provide snow clearing assistance to the local civil authorities. Personnel and assets from the 141st Air Refueling Wing have been tasked by Governor Gregoire to help Spokane County clear snow beginning on Feb. 2, 2008.
Air Guard crews successfully opened roads west of Fairchild AFB on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008 and will continue to work under Spokane County for directions regarding road priorities. Area citizens seeking information about road conditions should contact the Spokane County Engineering and Road Division, 477-3600.
The 141st Air Refueling Wing's nearly 900 members are citizens serving citizens with pride and tradition.