Slippery conditions
Snow and ice covers much of residential areas, as well as the rest of the installation, at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 4. A two-day winter storm closed Fort Hood as freezing temperatures turned precipitation into a wintry mix of ice and snow. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy Kellilyn Hill) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Fort Hood’s Directorate of Public Works and Fort Hood Family Housing took lessons learned from Winter Storm Uri one year ago to help guide them during this year’s winter storm, which hit the installation Feb. 3-4.

“Obviously, the storm wasn’t as bad,” explained Brian Dosa, Fort Hood DPW director. “Based on Winter Storm Uri a year ago, we learned some lessons and got better, so we were much better prepared this year for another winter storm.”

After leading DPW’s ground-clearing efforts through Winter Storm Uri in 2021, Jose Ancira, supervisor of roads and grounds, knew which areas were most susceptible to ice, so he was able to quickly target those areas around Fort Hood. The crew put a layer of chat on the heavily iced areas on Tank Destroyer Boulevard, Clear Creek Roads, several overpasses and gates.

Chat is a blend of salt and sand that is applied to the roads. Ancira explained that the sand provides a grip on the icy roads, while the salt helps melt away the ice. Because they knew the major areas to target, there was no wasted chat. They also did not have to worry about the chat being difficult to work with this year.

Dosa and Ancira explained that last year, the chat was stored in the elements, which caused it to become wet and freeze, making it difficult to work with. This year, however, they created an awning to store the chat under, so it would not be as exposed to the elements.

“The conditions were not as bad as last year, but it did come through and hit us that evening, so I think Friday morning was worse than Thursday,” Ancira added. “We were able to clear a lot of major roadways Thursday. Friday morning was slick, so we went through and did some things we learned from last year.”

Despite the freezing temperatures, Dosa said it was pretty quiet at the work order desk. To keep their employees from having to drive in hazardous conditions, they set up living accommodations at DPW for the people who would be working.

Winter weather
Very little traffic is seen on T.J. Mills Boulevard, a main thoroughfare at Fort Hood, Texas, during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. Post officials said lessons learned from that weeklong freeze helped them prepare for the two-day storm that hit Fort Hood Feb. 3-4. (Photo Credit: Dave Larsen, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“We were prepared for a heavy call volume, but it was pretty limited,” Dosa added. “We had some heat calls, had a few water breaks, but not too many considering how cold it was.”

Dosa said the only damage Fort Hood suffered was a couple of water lines breaks at Courses of Clear Creek and in the barracks. To avoid even more water line breaks, Dosa said they worked with the Fort Hood Fire Department and units to disconnect sprinkler systems in the motor pools ahead of the winter storm. By draining the water lines, there was not any water in the sprinkler systems to freeze.

“The unit had the responsibility of going out and checking the facility more frequently and make sure there was no fire,” he said. “That also saved us from a lot of broken pipes at Hood Army Heliport.”

Ancira said he is also thankful that Fort Hood residents heeded the Fort Hood commander’s advisory to stay at home. He said he believes there were less accidents on the roads because people listened.

Chris Albus, project director of Fort Hood Family Housing, said they had many lessons learned from Winter Storm Uri, which they used to heighten focus on preparation and education.

“Going into the winter season, we have been communicating with residents through our various communication platforms and providing tips on how to prepare and protect their homes during cold temperatures and in the event of a winter storm,” Albus said. “With the health and safety of our residents as a number one priority, we developed a winter weather pre-check list as a useful tool for residents, covering how to prepare their vehicles, home, items to ensure they have supply of on hand, and more, so they could be prepared in the event of a winter weather emergency.”

Staying at home
This view of a residential area at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 4, shows no traffic moving in the wake of a two-day winter storm that closed down the installation. Jose Ancira, supervisor of the Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works' roads and grounds crew, said post residents headed advisories to stay at home and off frozen streets, which helped prevent accidents. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Ilarraza, Fort Hood Resident Advisory Board) VIEW ORIGINAL

To help prepare for this year’s winter storm, Albus said they identified three maintenance crews, who remained on Fort Hood throughout the storm to assist with 24/7 emergency maintenance operations. The crews were positioned on the east, west and south of the installation to avoid any road closures they may have encountered.

“We purchased tire chains for our vehicles to use in the event that traction on the roads became a concern,” Albus said. “Additionally, to ensure we were prepared to relocate residents into temporary lodging, as needed, we ensured we had hospitality suites ready and worked with our on-post lodging partner, IHG Army Hotels, for assistance with hotel rooms. Luckily, there were no relocations needed.”

To ensure residents were prepared for the storm, the Fort Hood Resident Advisory Board created winter safety videos on various topics. Fort Hood Family Housing also placed winter weather signs at the neighborhood entrances about winter preparation, including how to contact emergency maintenance.

“We only received nine emergency and 39 urgent storm-related calls due to water leaks, frozen pipes, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) repairs, and roof repairs,” Albus said. “These numbers are congruent with what we would typically experience during an inclement weather-related event such as heavy rainstorms, and our teams did a fantastic job responding and serving residents during trying conditions over the weekend. Due to our quick actions and preparations, we were able to quickly respond to residents to ensure their homes were safe and taken care of and mitigate any displacements so they could remain comfortably in their homes.”