Chilled to the BONE

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With Nov. 17 marking the first official snowfall on Ellsworth Air Force Base, Airmen began preparing themselves for what may be a very cold winter.

For some Airmen, this winter may be their first experience with extreme cold weather conditions.

"This will be my first time seeing and living in snow, since I was 10 years old," said 1st Lt. Angela Turner, 28th Bomb Wing executive officer. "It's going to be very interesting."

Lieutenant Turner, who hails from San Antonio, said she was shocked when people told her what to expect from South Dakota winters.

"I expected there to be a lot of snow," she said. "But, people told me the biggest issues were the cold, wind and drifts."

Aside from the wind chill factor, which was briefed to Lieutenant Turner during the Right Start program, she said one of her primary concerns will be driving during inclement weather.

"I'm a little nervous about driving in the snow, getting stuck on the side of the road or having my car plowed over because I'm parked on the side of the street."

Lieutenant Turner said she took steps, upon arriving at Ellsworth, to minimize the risk of getting stuck in the snow.

"The first thing I did when I got here was upgrade my car to an all-wheel drive vehicle with better tires," she said. "I also updated my wardrobe. Living in Texas you don't have a lot of sweaters and turtlenecks - so I had to buy boots, gloves and extra winter gear I'd never owned before. It was quite an experience."

She also stocked her new vehicle with an emergency car kit - containing jumper cables, candles, extra clothes, a flashlight and other emergency gear. Lieutenant Turner said she also checks the weather before leaving to go to work, or if she is planning a trip somewhere. However, she said the most important asset to preparing for the winter season has been talking with people about their experiences.

"Dress for the weather," said Leo Heuwagen, 28th BW safety and occupational health specialist. "Our South Dakota weather can change quickly, so don't get caught unprepared in a bad situation."

Mr. Heuwagen offers personal safety tips Airmen should adhere to during the winter months.

Dress in layers

· The first layer should fit snugly, but not tightly, against the skin.
· The next layer should fit for comfort.
· The exterior layer, generally a shell and pants, serves as a guard against the elements. It should repel water from snow, sleet or rain; and block the wind - while allowing perspiration to evaporate.
· Look for 100 percent ultra-violet protection in sunglasses. Airmen should make sure the glasses fit snugly behind the ears and rest gently on the bridge of the nose.
· Don't buy gloves or mittens which are too tight. Allow for a small pocket of air at the fingertips, which will serve as additional insulation.
· Don't wear jeans or street pants. Denim is not waterproof, so water will soak through.

Driving in winter conditions

· Airmen should prepare their vehicle early for winter conditions - such as carrying a survival kit in their vehicle, as Lieutenant Turner did.
· Check (605) 385-7623 (ROAD) for up-to-date road conditions on Ellsworth Air Force Base. Airmen may also dial 511, or (866) 697-3511 (MY SD 511) from any local phone for road condition reports in the local area.
· When driving on snowy or icy roads, slow down. Drive the condition, not the speed limit.
· Don't crowd the plow. Give snow removal vehicles plenty of room.

Mr. Heuwagen said one of the most common mistakes Airmen make when dealing with winter weather is getting caught unprepared.

"If you get caught in a South Dakota blizzard, either in your vehicle or in the Black Hills - hiking or skiing, the visibility could easily turn to white-out conditions, and it could be a long time before help arrives," he said. "I can't stress enough the importance of taking winter seriously. Being properly prepared could save your life."