Fort Riley Thaws Out After Midwest Ice Storm
December 14, 2007
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, Dec. 14, 2007) - The ice storm that ripped through the Midwest Monday left more than 8,000 people and 80 percent of homes here without power.
A joint operations center with experts from nearly all agencies on post has been operating around the clock to respond to the ice storm. The work in the JOC includes maintaining accountability, assessing needs for Soldiers and Families, assessing safety and weather conditions and responding to requests and questions from Fort Riley community members.
Brig. Gen. Keith Walker said he'd like to see a "sense of normalcy" on post by Monday morning.
"Is that physically possible' Yeah, it is. Is it hard' Yeah, but I think it would be a mistake for us not to strive to achieve that," he said. Brig. Gen. Walker is the 1st Infantry Division assistant commander for operations.
While many Soldiers and Families remained in shelters, barracks and with friends, the Department of Public Works worked overtime to clear trees and restore power.
Private contractors and work crews from Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Fort Hood, Texas, were on hand to help restore power as well, and by Friday morning, 2,770 Soldiers and Families living off post were still without power, and 1,823 Soldiers and Families living on post were waiting for electricity.
Jerry Wright, a public-works utility employee, said line crews have been out since Monday evening - the start of what turned into a very long week. Duty hours for crew members begin as the sun rises and end long after it sets.
"They've been working around the clock without a lot of sleep. They're working real hard for the Families and the Soldiers," said Tim Livsey, Fort Riley director of plans, training, mobilization and security. And many of those Civilian workers spend the day restoring power on post, only to go home at night to a house with no electricity."
Some Families couldn't wait for the power to come back on any longer. After four days, Sgt. 1st Class Matt Geyer broke down Thursday morning and shelled out $750 for a generator. He said that the hardware store sold out within an hour.
Other Families gathered at two shelters on post, Long Gymnasium, which has since closed, and King Field House.
Pfc. Miranda LaCount, her husband Rick and their two children, Della, 11, and Dakota, 9, waited out the first night of the storm in their farmhouse, before going to Pfc. LaCount's sergeant's house and eventually the King Field House.
"We were lucky to find this place. We tried every place and they were all full. It's really a Godsend that the Army is doing this," she said.
Sandra Lowery, a Fort Riley mother who is expecting her third child in three weeks, has been staying at the shelter since early Wednesday with her two daughters, Jocelyne, 5, and Hailey, 2, while her husband is deployed in Iraq.
She said her biggest challenge has been trying to take care of her two daughters on top of being pregnant and having no power.
Just as many of these Families prepare to leave the shelter, another winter storm prepares to dump up to six inches of snow on Fort Riley today.
Director of Public Works Larry McGee said roads and grounds crews were on standby for snow-burst operations, but warned it could make travel difficult and wreak further havoc on the power lines.
"The ice has caused weak spots and the snow may just make things worse," he said. The snow could add additional weight to the already-strained power lines and tree limbs. Falling temperatures and accumulating snowfall will also slow down the sleep-deprived utility crews as they work to bring electricity to the remaining living quarters, followed by office buildings and street signs.
(Dena O'Dell and Laura Stroda work for the Fort Riley Public Affairs Office.)