Photo by Staff Sgt. Ben K. Navratil
As winter storm Janus dumped several inches of snow on Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., on January 14, the Tomb Sentinels of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) kept their watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the rest of the National Capital Region received the most snow seen in several years as a result of a storm that struck the area Jan. 21.
Approximately three inches of snow fell on the joint base in a 12-hour period. The inclement weather prompted federal government offices to shut down. Further, Arlington National Cemetery closed shortly after 1 p.m. Jan. 21. The storm also forced a Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers Town Hall event, also set for Jan. 21 to cancel.
What the storm didn’t cancel was the Directorate of Public Works’ response to winter weather.
"We pre-treat roads; we check equipment," said Denise Faldowski, base operations and maintenance chief for the Directorate of Public Works. "We follow the weather pretty closely, primarily NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), so we know when the storm’s going to hit."
Every storm is treated as an individual event, continued Faldowski, and an after action report is written following each event.
"We learn something every time, so when a customer says this wasn’t what I expected when I came back, we take that feedback and use it to improve for the next time," she said.
Public Works snow team members are called in to work based on forecasted inclement weather that will impact the installation, she said.
"If we see the storm is going to hit by 6, we’ll bring them in by 4," continued Faldowski. "They’ll get the equipment running and warmed up and put it through our checks and balances to ensure it is functioning properly." Approximately 15 Public Works staffers spent what was a snow day for federal workers on duty, plowing roads to ensure they remained passable.
"They worked continuously during the storm and are the reason we are a success. They continue to impress us with their work ethic," said Anthony Taylor, a DPW supervisor.
"We also had people on staff to check HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), and our aging infrastructure; we have a carpenter and welder here to help with any necessary repairs," added Faldowski.
Roads on the installation are pre-treated with a brine solution similar to what is used on roads outside the gates, said Tyalor.
Some may notice that roads in Arlington County are wetter than roads on the installation, even though the county and joint base use the same brine solution to treat roadways.
"They have a lot more traffic, so the salt and the brine actually gets activated," she said. "The salt solution is activated by the friction generated by vehicles that are driving on the roads. "We don’t have the volume of traffic that they do, that’s why we have the re-freezing."
Taylor stressed that the plowing of the installation’s roads is done on a priority basis.
"We have our priority roads that you have to keep open (like McNair Road on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base)," he said. "When we got to the secondary roads, what got us, just like it got the county, the temperatures dropped to 9 degrees and the treated roads froze over."
Faldowski also lauded the installation’s fire, police department, the grounds contractor and entire DPW workforce for their response to the storm.
"It’s a very tightly knit relationship," she said. "These guys are a team."
With at least another week of cold temperatures in the forecast, Faldowski and Taylor urged community members to keep doors and windows securely shut, and to report any water leaks immediately. They also urged drivers to keep a safe distance between themselves and snow plows and salt trucks.
Ice Melt is also available at Bldg. 325 from 1-2 p.m. weekdays on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base and on Fort McNair at the P lot at the same time.
To contact public works, call 703-696-3263.