West Point hosts stranded football fans during snowstorm
November 1, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y., Nov. 1, 2011 -- The West Point community grew a little larger thanks to a vigorous dousing of snow over the weekend.
A record-setting autumn nor'easter hit West Point and the surrounding area with a vengeance Oct. 29-30. Through the distress of the unusual weather event, a cooperative effort by West Point agencies provided shelter for more than 100 people stranded by the weekend snowstorm.
The storm dumped anywhere from six to 12 inches of snow throughout the area while leaving 87,000 residents without power in Sullivan, Ulster and Orange counties by Sunday.
Dealing with a myriad of problems caused by the storm before and during the Army-Fordham football game, the Post Emergency Operations Center turned its focus to a power outage at Stony Lonesome I Housing. While staff at Michie Stadium kept busy shoveling yard lines during Army's 55-0 win, a warming center was established on post to accommodate families who lost power in their homes.
"Throughout the game, we carefully monitored the ability of our spectators to depart the installation. Continuous plowing and sanding guaranteed freedom of movement on post, but there were no guarantees for Routes 9W and 293," Garrison Commander Col. Mike Tarsa said. "Many left West Point only to become stranded on 293. At about 7 p.m., I was confronted with a continued power outage at Stony (Housing) and deteriorating road conditions when I gave the order to establish a warming center at the Holleder Center."
The warming center was open by 8:15 p.m. Oct. 29. Amy Rodick, Christina Overstreet and Monica Orecchio from Army Community Service worked along with personnel from the athletics department to run the shelter, while U.S. Corps of Cadets operations officer Lt. Col. John Nawoichyk and USCC Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett involved cadets in providing cots and bedding for those stranded by the storm.
The situation became more serious about 9 p.m. with word from the Orange County Emergency Operations Center that roads in all directions around West Point were closed or subject to closure.
A traffic snarl had been created on Route 293, where drivers could not go forward or back. Orange County requested West Point support in plowing the road, bringing the people stuck there back to the academy and sheltering them.
Tarsa made the decision and Directorate of Public Works snow control officer Bob Fredrick led two plows and a road grader out Stony Lonesome Gate, up 9W to 293, plowing all the way.
They reached the stranded motorists several miles off post in the area around Camp Natural Bridge, before turning around to plow their way back to West Point. The Directorate of Emergency Services fire and police units also stood ready to help.
More than 100 people, including 40 Boy Scouts, spent the night of Oct. 29 at the Holleder Center. The group were provided meals, ready-to-eat, fresh fruit and water, as well as dry socks and cots.
"At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, I briefed (Superintendent) Lieutenant General (David) Huntoon that we had 108 people (stranded travelers mostly) bedded down at the Holleder Center," Tarsa said. "It was a team effort with some tremendous assistance from USCC and ODIA.
"With their help, the Army ticket areas were furnished with cots, blankets, sheets and pillows for anyone who couldn't make their way back home," he added. "My ACS folks, Amy Rodick, Monica Orecchio and Christina Overstreet then treated our guests like family, and their care was nothing short of remarkable. It was a great feeling to be able to help."
The lights came back at Stony I Housing at around 10:15 p.m., but members of the EOC and other involved departments stayed up all night and through Sunday morning until the warming center was empty of occupants at 10 a.m.