Monday, 4 February 2008

Update to "The Blizzard of '08"

Yesterday, (was it just yesterday?) 2 Feb 08 was a long day.Late in the evening of 1 Feb the snow started. The wind had been blowing all day, a cold, clear day. As the clouds rolled in and the snow started we all knew it would be a long night, and a long day the next day.

All night long I listened to the wind blowing, 30 to 50 miles an hours, according to reports. I could hear the snow driven against the side of my aluminum trailer, but there was nothing to do except wait until the morning to see what damage was done. I was particularly concerned for my Jordanian friends who were living in less than ideal conditions with a generator that has seen better days.

I awoke sometime in the middle of the night to hear the wind howling and snow still falling. I decided to peak outside to see how much snow had fallen. I could not open my door! The snow had piled so high outside my door that I could not easily open it. And as I cracked the door open, wind-driven snow came pouring in. Not wanting to deal with a room full of snow at 2am, I closed the door and went back to bed, happy to have heat and power on a night like that.

At 6am when I woke up I noticed a few things before I broke the seal on my sleeping bag. First, my breath. It was so cold in my room that I could see my breath. Then I noticed no lights, on my TV, phone or computer. Yes, my power was out. No power means no heat, since I have electric space heaters in my room. No power means no hot water, although for me that was not an issue, my hot water was out already due to a broken pipe leading from the hot water heater. No power also meant no TV, no phone and no internet. When I got up I also discovered I had no cold water due to frozen water pipes. After I got dressed I discovered that indeed, I was trapped in my room. The snow had drifted so high against my door that I could not open it. It was not long before I heard the sound of shovels and discovered my neighbors, John and Glenn, had shoveled the snow from my door, freeing me from my room.

The sights around the camp were amazing. Over a foot of snow had fallen during the night and the high winds had created drifts 6 to 10 feet high. There was no power and no water in my part of the camp. The walkways of FOB Apache were impassable without a shovel. Vehicles were buried and doors were blocked. I could only imagine the scene at the Jordanian camp.

Well, if you are hit with a blizzard it is nice to have a camp full of (relatively) young, healthy men and women in good physical condition, with lots of tools and nothing else to do except work. In record time snow shovels appeared, followed by heavy equipment. Paths were made and roads opened; vehicles were uncovered and started and readied for use. Spare generators were placed in operation and hot food was served. By 8am the footpaths were cleared By 10am roadways were open on the FOB. By noon we had power restored. Finally, we were operational and could begin to help others.

I finally made it off FOB Apache to check on the Jordanians just after noon. I found them surprisingly well. They had survived the night using their two remaining generators (one of their three was down for maintenance). Just like us they had woken up to deep snow and deeper drifts, but they immediately began to dig themselves out. Their vehicles were uncovered and started, pathways dug in the snow and doors unblocked. They still had challenges with frozen water pipes and broken water pipes, but they had survived the night, and they were getting back to normal.Of course, the day did not end at noon. The snow continued to fall, although much slower. And the wind died down and the temperatures rose. All in all, it was a pleasant winter day..... Until the fire. I was back at FOB Apache when I got a call from the Jordanians, "Do you have the phone number for the maintenance man? One of our buildings is on fire". At least they were calm. The story was a bit confusing over the phone, but when I arrived some minutes later, after advising them to "Put out the fire! then call the maintenance man!". I found that they had indeed experience an electrical fire in a breaker box in one of the barracks. The fire caused one of their two remaining generators to kick off line, resulting in no power and no heat and no light throughout the camp. Fortunately they had put out the fire before anything except the breaker box itself was damaged.

With the help of the maintenance guys and the supervisors the power was soon back on line, the breakers box was replaced and rewired and all was well...for now. So, overall it was a long day, but successful. No one was hurt and everyone is warm. Not everyone has hot water, but everyone has water.

I've been doing this Army thing for a long time and I am always reminded of how important the simple things in life are: electricity and running water are both high on the list. The snow continues to fall, but at a manageable rate. It's still cold, but not bitterly cold. And the days keep ticking by until Spring, and better weather, and a long plane ride home.

In case you are interested, here's a link to the weather in Qalat, Afghanistan:
Now I know why they don't traditionally fight in Afghanistan during the winter.

Phillips, out.


Haole Wahine said...

Stuck in the Mud,
Stuck in the trailer,
Stuck on the FOB.

I think I see a pattern emerging (pun intended).

I am very glad you were able to work as a team, and to liason with the Jordanians successfully.

Bet that plane ride in the spring won't be that long.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/04/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog Col Phillips. its good to get news from somewhere near where my son is serving. My son is at FOB Lagman and i do hear from him regularly however it is always good to get other perspectives about life over there. Thanks for your service to our country.

Anonymous said...

Hope all is well, missing your postings.

God Bess

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