Editor's Note: this article was originally published in October, 2020, by USAG Bavaria Public Affairs.
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Inclement weather brought on by the autumn and winter months can deliver a blow to Bavaria and the surrounding area, affecting your decision to travel.
Garrison officials and street cleaning crews at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria installations at Garmisch, Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels and Vilseck will do everything they can to keep services running. Snow and ice, however, may result in changes in road conditions, school closures, work delays or a temporary shutdown in some garrison services.
What to do
You have options. Be in the know. Here’s how:
- Register in Alert! today. Ensure you and your family receive Army Alert messages before bad weather hits. Alert is the U.S. Army’s mass warning notification system. The system notifies users in several ways: as a pop-up on their workstation computer, an email to work and home addresses, a text message to their cell phone, and a voicemail to their work, home and cell phones. Add up to 10 phone numbers and email addresses. Visit https://home.army.mil/bavaria/index.php/Alert.
- Stay connected to home.army.mil/bavaria. In the left hand column there is a “Road Conditions” button. Click it to find out about school closures, road conditions and weather conditions.
Log on to the USAG Bavaria Facebook at facebook.com/USAGBavaria for information pertaining to weather updates, delays, closures and driving conditions in Grafenwoehr, Netzaberg and Vilseck. Connect to the Hohenhels Facebook page in Hohenfels and the Garmisch page in Garmsich.
- Download the USAG Bavaria mobile app. Select your location and click Road Conditions & Closures.
- If you are without Internet access, call the “Weather & Roads” hotline, at any time of the day. For current driving conditions in Grafenwoehr, Netzaberg and Vilseck, call DSN 475-ROAD (7623), CIV 09641-83-7623. In Hohenfels, call DSN 466-4001, CIV 09472-83-4001. And in Garmisch, dial DSN 440-3300, CIV 08821-750-3300.
- Tune into AFN Bavaria radio at 98.5 FM in Grafenwoehr, 107.7 FM in Vilseck, 89.9 FM in Amberg, 93.5 FM in Hohenfels or 90.3 FM in Garmisch. Or, listen online at AFN 360. Radio DJs provide updates on conditions in Bavaria.
- If you are a Soldier and are still unsure, call your staff duty officer for further guidance.
Driving and Road Conditions: Understanding the difference
When you get updates from garrison Facebook, AFN radio or the Weather & Roads hotline, you will encounter two terms: driving conditions and road conditions.
The driving condition is an advisory to drivers of privately owned vehicles—in other words, an advisory to you as a Soldier, civilian or parent who is deciding about driving to work or school. Driving conditions levels are set as follows:
- Non-hazardous: Conditions allow for normal vehicle operation
- Hazardous: Drivers are likely to encounter snow, slush and patches of black ice. Caution is advised during vehicle operation.
- Dangerous: Drivers are likely to encounter snow, drifting snow, black ice and limited visibility. Extreme caution is advised during vehicle operation.
- Extremely dangerous: Drivers are likely to encounter snow, heavy drifting snow, extreme sheet ice, limited visibility and potential “white out” conditions. Only emergency travel should be conducted.
Road conditions are set at green, amber, red and black. These levels only pertain to conditions for dispatching military tactical and non-tactical vehicles. All DOD sedans, station wagons, carryalls, vans, buses and public works vehicles are considered “non-tactical.”
Contrary to popular belief, the driving and road conditions do not dictate whether you as a Soldier, civilian or student should come to work or school, though they are indicators that you should practice caution commensurate with the current condition.
Road conditions are determined for both on- and off-post. Conditions are set based on the most deteriorated spots on-post and within the surrounding communities. Military police patrols may deem amber conditions on General Patton, for example, but red in Schmidmuehlen or Hohenburg. Therefore, road conditions are red.
If you have concerns but no installation-wide delay or closure has been announced, contact your staff duty officer or supervisor. Commanders and supervisors are empowered to decide whether individuals can delay reporting.
The garrison shuttle will not run during red or black road conditions. The dining facilities remain open. Child care facilities remain open to mission essential personnel.
Understanding how Bavaria responds to bad weather
The garrison commander and respective garrison managers determine work delays, early dismissals and school closures. This information will instantaneously be routed to https://home.army.mil/bavaria and AFN and made available to the public. So stay connected, tune in, turn on and before leaving your house, use good judgment and err on the side of safety.
When conditions warrant, the garrison command team may direct delayed reporting, early release or garrison closure for schools and garrison employees. This decision is based on a combination of driving and weather conditions.
The garrison command team’s decisions apply to all personnel, mission partners, directorates, agencies and DoDEA-Europe schools.
The announcement of delayed reporting or garrison closure will be made as early as 4 a.m. The garrison’s Installation Operations Center (IOC) — which is staffed 24/7 — updates the weather website and weather hotline, and notifies AFN broadcasters, who then broadcast updates as early at 4:30 a.m. An Alert! message is sent to registered users.
The garrison command team make every effort based on available data to announce an early release two hours prior to the forecasted degradation of road conditions. This allows for DoDEA school officials to stage school buses and prepare students and parents. The IOC will also contact mission partners in addition to updating the website, phone recordings and AFN.
Understanding the differences between Weather Outlook, Advisory, Watch & Warning
The primary mission of the U.S. Air Force’s 7th Weather Squadron stationed in Grafenwoehr is to support air operations at USAG Bavaria. But they also provide weather updates to garrison’s IOC. Either the IOC or the Public Affairs Office (PAO) will release inclement weather information to the public. Here’s what you need to know:
- Advisory: Issued when hazardous weather is occurring, imminent or likely. Advisories are for less serious conditions than warnings.
- Watch: Issued when the risk of hazardous weather has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location and timing remain uncertain.
- Warning: Issued when hazardous weather is occurring, imminent or likely. A warning means weather conditions pose a threat to life and property.
Work and School Delays, Early Dismissals & Closures
When a delay is announced at any of the USAG Bavaria communities, the garrison’s Department of Public Works needs time to clear roads and parking lots. Primary roads are cleared first, followed by secondary and tertiary roads. Garrison employees have up until two hours to report to their normally scheduled reporting time, but no later than 9 a.m.
School buses will pick up children from their bus stops two hours after their normal pickup time.
When inclement weather results in work delays or early closures, Child Development Centers and School-Age Centers are open to mission-essential personnel only. If an early closure is announced, non-mission essential personnel must pick up their children immediately. All other CYS facilities and programs will be closed in accordance with the garrison closure plan.
During a work delay, expect garrison front-door services such as the fitness centers to open no earlier than 9 a.m. Appointments—such as those scheduled at the medical and dental clinics—may be postponed. Always call ahead prior. Use the phone book at www.finditguide.com.
Your responsibilities as a community member
You are responsible for your own safety. The decision to drive to work or send your children to school is up to you. Weather conditions can vary drastically across Bavaria, as well as change at a moment’s notice.
You are required by German law to remove as much snow and ice from your vehicle as possible, particularly from windows, mirrors and headlights. Make sure you have maximum visibility — no peephole driving — and that your vehicle does not present a hazard to other drivers. If accumulation is heavy, also remove snow from the roof, trunk and hood so that large chunks do not fly off towards other drivers. Police can stop you and impose fines if your vehicle is determined unsafe to you or others.
Off-post residents in leased housing and private rentals are responsible for snow and ice removal in their driveways and on public sidewalks bordering their home. Permitted de-icing products, such as sand and Tiefen-Eisfrei, are available at USAG Bavaria Self-Help and AAFES locations, as well as off-post hardware stores. For more on what Self-Help offers, visit our Self-Help page.
Expand visibility and influence weather decisions
We want to provide an outlet allowing community members to report road and weather conditions in their area. That puts eyes on areas that may otherwise go unnoticed. Community feedback can become part of the decision-making process to call a delay, early dismissal or closure.
We’re using the hashtag #BavariaWeatherEyes. When weather near your home poses a hazard, report it. From your Facebook Groups or Profile page, report your location, date/time, weather and road conditions and stamp it with #BavariaWeatherEyes. Ensure we can see your post by putting it on a public page or setting the post itself to be publicly viewable. Alternatively, on nights we predict potential bad weather, we’ll post to Facebook soliciting feedback. Report there. We’ll monitor trends, which can be used to influence the decision to call school and office delays. Details at https://www.army.mil/article/257925.