Team Gordon responds to storm
When the National Weather Service in Columbia, S.C. issued a winter storm warning for sleet, snow, and freezing rain for the Central Savannah River Area last week, many people began to prepare for the second winter storm to hit the area.
The Fort Gordon Installation Operations Center increased its manning and activated Feb. 11, according to Thomas I. Fitzpatrick, director of plans, training, mobilization and security.
“We expanded to full operations Wednesday (Feb. 12) and Thursday (Feb. 13) in advance of potentially expanding demands and for the potential increase of civil-military support as well as possible on-post sheltering requirements for barracks and housing area personnel, power outage management, and accountability and recovery management,” Fitzpatrick explained. At the same time, the installation Directorate of Public Works initiated the Severe Weather Action Plan.
Working around the clock, the IOC staff coordinated support throughout the storm and after for the Fort Gordon community. The IOC staff coordinated with the Fort Gordon Public Affairs office, issuing alerts, weather updates, closures and cancellations of events on the installation sent out through the post’s social media sites.
Fort Gordon and Gillem Enclave curtailed installation operations Feb. 12 due to the expected inclement weather. Only key and essential personnel, as determined by each command, and those required by their chain of command or supervisor, were required to report for duty. All scheduled appointments at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center were cancelled as were the clinics. The hospital maintained all essential emergency services, inpatient care, scheduled surgeries and high risk obstetrics and gynecology care during the storm.
“They took non-Department of Defense patients in support of backlog or staff shortage at other area hospitals,” Fitzpatrick said. “If the (civilian) ambulances could not get to area hospitals because of road conditions they would come to DDEAMC.”
The Directorate of Public Works graded, sanded and salted the roads on the installation.
“They kept the roads cleared of downed trees and other debris,” continued Fitzpatrick. “They assisted Balfour Beatty Communities with road clearing in post housing.” He added, “DPW coordinated with Georgia Power Company on the restoration of power due to downed power lines.”
“Crews worked around the clock in open tractor cabs often in below-freezing temperatures clearing the post roads,” said James Smith of the Fort Gordon Public Roads and Ground section. “About 30 miles of road has been cleared since Valentine’s Day and an excess of 2,000 (downed) trees have been taken off the roadways on the installation. More than 400 of the trees were removed on Range Road near the Veterinary Clinic.”
Public Works Manager for AKIMA, Jon Stringfield, said DPW and AKIMA work crews worked 24/7 clearing the post’s primary and secondary roadways and removing ice on sidewalks and exterior stairs.
Throughout the storm, dispatchers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, guards, and Soldiers assigned to the Directorate of Emergency Services maintained minimum essential capabilities in order to provide emergency services to the Fort Gordon community, according to Lt. Col. Hollis L. Bush Jr., director of emergency services and the provost marshal.
“Dispatchers ensured the appropriate emergency response was sent to each incident and work orders routed to DPW and DPTMS,” Hollis said. “Police officers assessed road conditions, directed traffic, and set up road blocks when trees fell. Firefighters provided assistance in clearing roads as required in training areas. Guards ensured access control points were operational for entry into Fort Gordon. Lastly, police and guards were instrumental in providing assistance to FEMA by providing light sets and directing / escorting FEMA convoys to staging areas on the installation.”
Members of the Installation Support Detachment, under the leadership of Steven Goulet, assisted at the FEMA site with light sets, according to Fitzpatrick.
“They also helped the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff in setting up shelters and shelter reception staging areas in Alexander Hall in the event service members living in on-post barracks required emergency shelter because of power outages,” said Fitzpatrick.
About 125 tractor trailers and drivers made their way onto the post with DES escort. This became part of the FEMA Mobile Operations Center which is part of the temporary Intermediate Staging Base on post, according to Linwood Gantt, the Intermediate Staging Base manager.
“The trailers are filled with bottled water, cots, blankets, tarps, infant and toddler kits, Meals-Ready- To-Eat and other emergency items,” said Gantt.
“We arrived Wednesday (Feb. 12) and will remain in place until there’s no need for us to support Georgia or South Carolina,” he explained. “The states will identify their needs, send out a work order and we will ship out what they require. It could be one trailer load or as much as 100 trailers with supplies to hand out to those who need them.”
Also assisting FEMA is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the 249th Engineer Battalion from Fort Bragg, N.C. They are working forklift and providing material handling support.
“We manage the contract with the Advance Contracting Initiative –IAP Worldwide and all assets from the state of Georgia,” said Matt Rorick, mission manager, Corps of Engineers of the Savannah District in Georgia. “IAP prepares and installs generators to provide electricity for nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, and other sites in Georgia and South Carolina. Fort Gordon has about 150 generators we can send out for emergency support. This is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deployable Operations Systems.”
Assistant Chief Matt Williams and firefighters Anthony Fornicola, David Holbrook, Shaun Martin and Don Townley and the installation forestry staff cut trees out of the pathway to allow occupants at the Leitner Lake Campground clear passage during the storm, according to Assistant Chief John Ryan.
Early Wednesday morning (Feb. 12) Fort Gordon firefighters responded to on-post power outages and transformer problems.
The residents at the Leitner Lake Campgrounds were assisted by the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade during the winter storm. They provided water buffalo support during the utility outages, according to Fitzpatrick.
Fort Gordon Soldiers also gave to the aid of those in need on post. Sixty Soldiers from the 15th Regimental Signal Brigade helped in recovery efforts Feb. 14. The 35th Signal Brigade (Theater Tactical) provided 14 cooks in support o the post Logistic Readiness Center because the dining facility staff couldn’t make it in to work due to icy road conditions.
“The military members augmented the contract staff to provide hot meals for advanced individual training Soldiers on post,” said Fitzpatrick.
Vincent A. Pacchiana, the installation emergency manager, managed the post’s emergency resources.
“He coordinated with the emergency management agencies in Richmond and Columbia counties for off post shelter opportunities, on post desk top alert messages, FEMA and Georgia Emergency Management Agency coordination,” Fitzpatrick said. “In addition, he coordinated FEMA staging on post.”
Recovery efforts on post began Valentine’s Day with the Tactical Detail Branch Soldiers gathering up and removing downed tree limbs round the post.
“This recovery effort will continue for at least seven to 10 days,” said John P. Arthur, facility manager for the DPW Operations and Maintenance Division.