FORT RILEY, Kan. -- When it comes to clearing roads of snow and ice during extreme winter weather conditions, Burton Shepherd, roads and grounds supervisor for Fort Riley's Directorate of Public Works for the past 31 years, has the process of handling more than 440 lane miles of roads, parking lots, range roads and the airfield down to a science.

Shepherd works in one of 21 difference agencies involved in providing critical services to Fort Riley during a "Snowburst" operation -- the process of coordinating all activities conducted on the installation related to reaction and recovery before, during and after a storm.

Depending on which one of the four levels of Snowburst the garrison commander activates -- one representing minimal impact and four implying essential services only -- DPW will act based on information in the road condition report from the Fort Riley Operations Center, Shepherd said.

"It all depends on mother nature, how severe the storm is, how bad the roads are and how much snow we think will come," Shepherd said. "That affects the size (of the) crew we bring out."

Using about 1,000 tons of sand and salt mixture per major Snowburst event, as many as 33 drivers and operators bring out seven to 12 plow trucks, up to four scoop loaders and six road graders during two 16-and-a-half-hour shifts until Fort Riley's roads are green again.

"The faster we arrive, the faster we get on the roads. If we get out there fast enough, before the traffic, we try to have the roads open by approximately 3 or 4 a.m. for incoming traffic," Shepherd said.

DPW also works with the FROC to activate contractor clean up at child development centers, Child, Youth and School Services, the Water Treatment Plant facilities and the Medical and Dental Activity facilities. Picerne Military Housing is responsible for clearing all Family housing areas of snow and ice.

Shepherd said given a minor snowfall, like the precipitation Fort Riley had the week before Christmas, DPW can be pretty well squared away within a couple days. With a four- to 6-inch snowfall, however, they will need more equipment and manpower, and it will usually take a full five business days to recover.

With a major Snowburst of 10 inches or more, all available assets will be used, and DPW will help to clear additional areas on post, like the motor pools. That would take longer than a week to fully recoup from, Shepherd said, recalling it's been a few years since Fort Riley has experienced a level four.

But when the weather report looks "gnarly," Shepherd said he sometimes has to put in more than the normal day shift.

"When it gets real bad, I come in and camp in the office," Shepherd said.

Being able to get on the phone early so employees who live off post have enough time to safely commute to Fort Riley is a good reason for sacrificing the comforts of home, he said.

"You've got to think about those people. They've got to travel through the road conditions, and that's what takes time. Safety -- that's the most important part," Shepherd said.

Page last updated Fri January 6th, 2012 at 00:00