Winter woes: Snow, sleet force post to shut down
January 14, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A rare Southern winter storm shut down Fort Jackson Monday and Tuesday after 3 inches of snow accumulated in the Columbia area early Monday, according to the National Weather Service website.
The snowfall forced the closing of Fort Jackson schools and suspended operations for nonessential personnel. The post remained closed Tuesday and resumed operations after a two-hour delay Wednesday because freezing rain covered already-slick area roads with ice.
The decision to close the post was made Sunday afternoon, said Col. James Love, garrison commander. Despite the closing, approximately 300 civilian employees and 500 contractors braved the elements to keep Fort Jackson operational.
"We had a significant number of garrison employees working or on standby," Love said. "Of course, our main concern was roads and utilities so we brought in a robust crew to start salting, sanding and plowing roads around midnight on Sunday."
In addition, some key facilities, such as Scales Avenue Child Development Center, dining facilities and the Directorate of Emergency Services remained open, Love said.
Love said that Fort Jackson did not experience any major issues because of the storm. No power or utility outages were reported and only a few minor accidents occurred.
"I credit that to everyone who wasn't key and essential staying off the roads and adhering to the advice put out by the local community and post leadership," Love said. "I also credit that to the great work by our Directorate of Emergency Services, the preventative efforts of our Directorate of Public Works and having well-established plans and procedures in place for severe weather."
The weather not only affected Fort Jackson commuters, but also influenced training. The Soldier Support Institute and the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School canceled classes Monday and Tuesday. Basic Combat Training units were forced to adjust their plans.
"Training was modified to account for weather conditions and a reduced cadre presence," said Col. Bryan Rudacille, commander of the 165th Infantry Brigade. "Classroom instruction was used to reinforce previous training or prepare for future training events once the weather cleared sufficiently."
Rudacille said that previously-planned outdoor training would be rescheduled to ensure Soldiers have completed all training tasks and meet graduation requirements.
Throughout the closure, the 165th operated with a smaller cadre, Rudacille said.
"A reduced portion of the command reported to duty to make certain we maintained command and control, provided life support and enforced standards and discipline," Rudacille said. "Only the minimum personnel required to accomplish these objectives were directed to report to duty in order to minimize the risk to cadre during travel."
The storm also wreaked havoc with schedules of on-post events. The Helping Hands volunteer recognition ceremony, originally planned for Wednesday, was rescheduled for 9 a.m., Tuesday at the Joe E. Mann Center. The Martin Luther King luncheon had to be moved from Wednesday to 11:15 a.m., today at the Solomon Center. A total of nine Army Community Services classes and events, including the Spouses Forum, were canceled or rescheduled. Community members are advised to check the ACS Facebook (search "FTJacksonACS) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/FtjacksonACS) pages for updates. Classes that were canceled will be offered again on a normal rotational basis, said Elizabeth Maher, ACS outreach program coordinator.
The storm was responsible for the second measurable snow accumulation within a month. Before that, 12 snow and ice storms were reported in Richland County since January 2002, according to the National Climatic Data Center website. The weather system also limited operations at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Gillem, Fort Gordon, Fort McPherson and Fort Benning, all in Georgia.