By Mr. Charles K Stadtlander (IMCOM)January 24, 2011
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- Residents of Germany just survived the coldest December since 1969, and in doing so received a barrage of snow not experienced in years. The area around the Army garrison here received several storms and tallied nearly 60 centimeters of snow accumulation, resulting in several days of delays or closures for garrison services and schools. Franconia enjoyed its first white Christmas since 1981.
While many employees and students looked forward to enjoying a long morning at home during these weather delays, the tireless employees of USAG Schweinfurt's Directorate of Public Works knew that the snow days would be long ones.
"The crew members are experienced, reliable and hard-working personnel who perform the work to the very best of their abilities," said Robin Fisher, the head of DPW. To report to work so early on snow days, the clearance workers are "taking risk on snow- or ice-covered public road conditions to clear our roads, sidewalks and parking areas within the garrison."
Snow clearance workers, a force 20 people strong, start their days as early as 3 a.m. when the snow is falling. An early start rarely means an early departure, and these employees usually stay until 5 p.m. or later to ensure that the roads were clear for the community members. A weekend staff is on hand as well, sometimes working 10 hours on a Saturday just to keep roads clear.
"The priorities are set to provide the greatest good to the community," said DPW Officer-in-charge Capt. Carl Oborski. He said the first concerns when plowing are major streets and thoroughfares. Problems arise when cars drive repeatedly over roads not plowed yet. The remaining compacted snow is difficult for machinery to remove. "If every Soldier or spouse shoveled their respective parking spot, it would be easy."
In November, the DPW coffers were stocked with a healthy amount of salt necessary to keep roads clear and ice-free during a standard German winter. But as the days grew colder and one storm piled up after the next, the clearance crews needed more of the rock salt to meet the demands of the community. Unfortunately, German autobahn and local road maintenance crews were blindsided by the same weather, and scrambled to stock up on their own salt supplies. Despite the shortfall, DPW crews were able to blanket garrison roads with 130 tons of salt throughout the month of December.
The DPW stable of machinery is no small outfit. Two large Mercedes Unimogs with three-meter plows are the behemoths of the fleet, and the workers also operate smaller trucks and several walk-behind brooms and salt spreaders for sidewalks and tight spaces. And after the roads are cleared, the mountains of snow need to go somewhere. This important task falls to the heavy-duty scoop loaders and dump trucks.
"When the accumulated snow is piled on top of the storm sewer grates and melts, it gets compacted," said Oborski. "Then it freezes and acts like a drain plug in your sink." DPW's task during the warm, rainy weeks of early January was to make sure the on-post drains were able handle the rain and meltwater. Sand and gravel spread on the road for traction during December compounded the labor of this task, as runoff sends the grit into gutters and sewers.
Though the snow removal crews' hard work kept the main arteries of the garrison functional during a record-setting December, Bernhard Morber of DPW's maintenance division is keen to spotlight other hard workers in snow removal. "All tenant organizations, units and residents are involved in snow and ice removal services in their area of responsibility. We want to express our appreciation of all their efforts."