By Ms. Bianca Sowders (IMCOM)November 21, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Nov. 21, 2013) -- On the Earth's orbit around the sun, the northern hemisphere tilts away beginning in late September and ending in late March. Because of this tilt, the northern hemisphere receives less sunlight, causing a cooling trend. The closer a location is to the North Pole, the more prone it becomes to snow, ice and fog. The cold and these weather conditions can profoundly affect the lives of residents and commuters in northerly latitudes.
U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach has a set of procedures they follow during the winter weather season. Below are the garrison procedures and more valuable information for the community when winter weather hits.
GARRISON WEATHER PROCEDURES
When inclement weather occurs, the military police patrol cars check the roads on specific routes on and off post between 2 and 4 a.m. during inclement weather season. The officers forward their gathered data and information to the Directorate of Emergency Services, or DES. The determination of the road conditions is made by the garrison commander in coordination with the DES by 5 a.m. and posted by 5:30 a.m.
In case of overnight snowfall, the Directorate of Public Works and German snow removal services begin the snow removal task around 4 a.m. or earlier if necessary. Their focus is on primary roads; secondary roads may not be cleared for several days depending on the amount of snow. Everyone should note that the road condition determination is a general call and may not reflect the situation in everyone's immediate area. Obviously, weather is not identical everywhere within the USAG Ansbach footprint. Everyone should know their local situation and the general situation in order to determine their own individual course of action.
The military road conditions (GREEN, AMBER, RED and BLACK) apply to military dispatched vehicles only. If the conditions are BLACK, no more military dispatched vehicles, including TMPs, will be allowed to move. The only exceptions are Emergency Services (fire trucks, MPs, etc.) and snow plows.
For the rest of the community who are driving privately owned vehicles, or POVs, the military road conditions are a good indicator of the safety of roads on and off post. Soldiers and employees need to make a weather call to their supervisor if they feel it is unsafe to drive and get further instructions. Road conditions, published or unpublished, are not reason alone to miss work or official appointments. If the garrison commander determines that weather conditions deem it necessary to close the installation, it will be included in the road condition message.
Everyone should use common sense and, if making a decision, should err on the side of safety if they are not sure they can drive safely in inclement weather or if the forecast calls for worsening conditions. When in doubt, do not drive!
Road conditions mean different things:
• GREEN - Dry road surface, no ice or snow on the road surface; visibility is more than 50 meters, or 160 feet.
• AMBER - Any of the following on the road surface: Patches of black ice/slush, up to four inches of snow and/or visibility between 20 and 50 meters, or 60 and 160 feet. Drivers are recommended to slow down below 50 kilometers per hour or 31 miles per hour and drive with caution.
• RED - Any of the following on the road surface: Flooding, drifting snow, ice sheets, four to eight inches of snow and/or visibility less than 20 meters, or 60 feet.
• BLACK - Any of the following on the road surface: Heavy flooding, heavy snow drifts, extreme sheets of ice, more than eight inches of snow and/or visibility less than 15 meters, or 50 feet.
During significant winter weather with heavy prolonged snowfall and possibly delayed snow and ice removal, DES and the garrison commander may change the road conditions to RED and decide on a two-hour delay for school and garrison employees in order to allow extra time for snow removal. Check the appropriate channels before you head out. It is good advice for everyone to confirm a delay with their supervisor; that is simply good communication.
Example: If a two-hour delay is announced, the school buses will arrive at the designated stops two hours later than usual. Garrison employees can arrive two hours after their usual start time. This will give them ample time to take care of snow removal at home and take extra driving time.
In extreme/severe winter conditions, like prolonged heavy blizzards, the road conditions may be changed to BLACK. The message going out to the community could include the following: "Schools are closed. Only mission essential personnel report to work as designated by the unit chain of command. Stay home or indoors when possible." Call your supervisor, if you are not sure what applies to you.
WEATHER INFORMATION RESOURCES
The community can find inclement weather information in a number of ways:
• Tune in to AFN Bavaria Radio for USAG Ansbach road, school and work conditions or visit www.facebook.com/afnbavaria
• IMCOM-Europe Road Condition and School Delay/Closure website at www.imcom-europe.army.mil/webs/sites/staff_org/safety/road_conditions/index.asp
• USAG Ansbach Facebook page at www.facebook.com/U.S.Army.Garrison.Ansbach
• USAG Ansbach Road Condition message line at 09802-83-3882.
WINTER WEATHER REQUIREMENTS
Many winter driving tips community members can use are common sense:
• Reduce speed and increase distance between vehicles,
• Don't try to pass,
• Be aware that fall leaves or hidden sheets of ice (especially on bridges and overpasses) may make the road slippery,
• Do not drive outside of your comfort zone or capabilities,
• If you are insecure about driving in winter weather, it may be better to postpone nonessential trips to a later time.
Having the appropriate tires is also crucial to winter driving. Only approved tires with the mud and snow symbol ("M&S", "M+S" or "M•S"), a snow flake or an alpine symbol are allowed on German roads once the conditions change to icy and slippery. A common rule of thumb for the time frame to use winter tires is October to Easter.
All-weather tires must be marked with one of the symbols above and have at least 4 millimeters of tread depth to qualify as winter tires. To test tires, drivers should place a penny with Lincoln's head pointing down in between the treads -- if the top of Abraham Lincoln's head is visible, the tires need to be replaced.
Drivers should use snow chains if necessary and carry some "quick mounts" with them when driving in the mountains.
Adding extra travel time any time of the day also helps. Most importantly, drivers should slow down.
Roads on post will be plowed as soon as possible, but community members are urged to be careful and patient. Residents are responsible for snow removal in their own driveways. Leased housing or private rentals residents are usually responsible for snow and ice removal in their own driveways and on the public sidewalk bordering their residence. If uncertain, residents should check with their landlord on personal responsibilities. In most cases, personnel living off post in private rental are required to keep their sidewalks and access to their property cleared from snow and ice from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every host nation work day.
In case of sheet ice, use a limited amount of special rock salt, available at Self Help Stores (Katterbach Bldg. 5516 and Storck Bldg. 6555) for housing customers, and in small quantities for units and organizations. Off-post residents can purchase the salt called "Streusalz" in local DIY stores or supermarkets. Salt works best when it has to melt only a thin layer of snow or ice.
Removing as much snow from sidewalks and driveways before applying rock salt helps; residents should apply the salt evenly and use no more than one handful per square yard. The salt will melt the snow and ice gradually. Keeping the ground free of ice and snow will prevent the build-up of thick ice sheets, which are difficult to remove in freezing temperatures. Rock salt does not work well below 15 degrees Fahrenheit or -9 degrees Celcius. Using rock salt over plants or lawns will cause severe damage. Using rock salt over metal will corrode the metal. To protect the environment, rock salt should be used sparingly and not in areas where the melted snow will drain into streams, rivers or lakes. Environmentally safe alternatives to salt include sand, fine gravel or organic granulate, which will not melt the ice but will give the sidewalk user traction and comply with host nation regulations.
Winter in Germany can be a lot of fun, as long as everyone realizes that the pace has changed and everything can't be done the same way as during summer times. The most important thing to remember is that everyone's safety comes first, and it is up to each individual to make the right decision and take the appropriate action to stay safe.