ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Surprise snow storms that blanketed Aberdeen Proving Ground last winter, along with back-to-back blizzards in February, had residents and personnel digging themselves out of one snow heap after another.

This year, whether it snows two inches or two feet, Thomas Kuchar, director of Aberdeen Proving Ground's Directorate of Public Works, says the post team is ready for what may come.

"As an installation, we got very well versed in this last year," said Kuchar of APG's record-breaking snowfall.

APG was one of many areas hit with record temperatures and snowfall as the city of Aberdeen and the surrounding areas received more 55 than inches. This led the installation to stand up operations control centers in the Edgewood and Aberdeen areas, acquire new snow removal equipment and hone their response skills. The new equipment includes additional snow plows, small vehicles and pickup trucks, items that DPW will put to good use on an installation with two acres of sidewalk area, 243 acres of parking lot and about 265 lane miles to clear.

Tony Hale, site manager for the Edgewood Area operational control center, said his facility is equipped with televisions that monitor weather stations and computers that tap into the APG Emergency Operations Center system.

Last year's blizzards also prompted DPW to set up rest areas in the Aberdeen and Edgewood areas, giving employees a location for breaks when 24-hour response is needed.

Lessons learned, new equipment and preparation will help the installation weather this year's storms, but Kuchar said it was the pure grit and dedication of post employees that helped restore normalcy last year.

"The DPW shops worked hard, day and night, handling the impossible, to get the installation opened on time," Kuchar said.

He said Picerne Military Housing and volunteers from the Aberdeen Test Center also helped the post recover.

Scott Freeman, who works at the APG EOC, said the post doesn't close often due to adverse weather.

"Many factors go into the decision to close the post," he said.

Road and parking lot conditions as well as off-post road conditions are deciding factors, he said.

Freeman said the closure of federal offices in the Greater Baltimore metropolitan area do not apply to APG, and the delay or closure of Harford County schools also do not indicate that the post is closed.

Residents and employees are urged to listen to radio and television stations that specifically name APG for post closings. In addition to TV and radio updates, personnel can find out about closings via the Internet at www.apg.army.mil and by calling the garrison SNOW line at 410-278-SNOW (7669).

Gerry Luft, a meteorologist from the U.S. Aberdeen Test Center, said his team provides forecast support to the garrison when inclement weather hits APG. Decision for post delays and closures are made by the garrison, usually by 5 a.m.

"When we have treacherous traveling conditions and people want to know if the post is operating normally, we strongly recommend folks call the SNOW line, where the garrison provides a recorded message about the status of post operations for the day,"

Luft said. "Many times, liberal leave policy is put into affect so people won't have to drive in the snow or ice, but they will have to use annual leave should they not report to work." With post closings, personnel will not be charged annual leave. Luft said his team gathers information for forecast and warning support from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Admistration Climate Prediction Center and the Baltimore/Washington National Weather Service Office.

Greg Schoor, from the Baltimore/Washington National Weather Service Office, said his team monitors atmospheric signals when forecasting the weather. These atmospheric signals refer to changes in the ocean and in climate patterns around the globe.

"A big or little change in our weather is probably because of some other big or little change in another part of the world," he explained.

Schoor said a moderate to strong La NiAfA+-a, or cooling climate pattern, will be the dominant climate factor influencing weather across most of the U.S. this winter. However, weather for the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions is often driven not by La NiAfA+-a but by weather patterns over the northern Atlantic Ocean and Arctic.

"Based on the signals the atmosphere is showing we are not expecting nearly as much snow or blizzards this winter," he said.

While this year's forecast appears much brighter, post officials are not letting down their guard.

"What we went through last year really improved our skills," said APG Garrison Commander Col. Orlando Otiz. "We have a trained and ready crew and I think we're going into this season with a pretty good plan."

Page last updated Tue December 21st, 2010 at 10:53