Heaviest snowfall in 62 years hits Misawa
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- After last weekend's record-breaking snowfall, there's no doubt why Misawa Air Base, Japan, is called the snowiest base in the world.
The base received a record amount of snowfall in a 24-hour period for the month of February at 27.6 inches. The last time Misawa experienced more snowfall in that time was more than 60 years ago when they received 43.1 inches March 24, 1952.
Thankfully, Misawa's weather experts at the 35th Operation Support Squadron are always prepared to forecast the hammering blizzards of the northeast Honshu region.
"We realize the weather here is very unpredictable," said Master Sgt. Michael Adcock, 35 OSS Weather Flight Chief. "But over time, it's easier to learn how to pick up trends unique to this area."
"Just another day in the office" for people like Adcock can mean forecasting a potential storm for thousands of service members and their families -- a task the 35 OSS doesn't take lightly.
"Originally, we forecasted to receive 15 to 18 inches on Saturday afternoon, but as it got closer to time, we were leaning more toward 16 to 24 inches," said Adcock.
He was hesitant to publicize a forecast of that magnitude because of the snowball effect such a report would have on the local community.
"Predicting that much snow is a pretty incredible number to throw out, but the Japan Air Self-Defense Force weather office next door was showing similar numbers, so we went public with our forecast. Then, the storm continued to grow even more than we thought," said Adcock.
The average amount of snowfall for Misawa each winter season is 128.7 inches. As of this morning, Misawa has already received 127.6 inches.
"We are currently 32.7 inches ahead of what we should be for February 20," said Adcock.
Althought the snowfall is ahead of schedule at Misawa, the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron responds right on time.
The squadron's snow removal team is equipped with tools and manpower to clear the airfield runways and base roads to maintain routine operations, even in record-breaking conditions.
"Our number one priority in Misawa is to fly sorties, so my team does everything in its power to make sure that gets taken care of," said Staff Sgt. Brian Nowakowski, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and equipment operator.
Over the weekend, 35 CES Airmen worked double-shifts on their days off to make sure base operations were maintained and mission-essential roads were cleared.
"It's not every day you get to clear that much snow, so I gladly showed up to plow snow on my day off," said Nowakowski.
The team's main concern when plowing is to clear roads that interfere with emergency responders, security forces, and the main routes to the Exchange and commissary. Then, they are able to work our way to housing and other areas on base.
The 35 CES prepares for the worst-case scenario each winter season by adding 10 full-time workers within their squadron to contribute to snow plowing efforts from November 15 to March 31.
"I couldn't be more proud of my guys and their resilient effort," said Master Sgt. Daniel Draper, 35 CES heavy repair superintendent. "They asked to come into work before we even had the chance to call them for extra help over the weekend, and everyone maintained a positive attitude because we thrive on snow removal. We love it."
Adcock and Draper share the sentiment of pride in their Airmen's dedication to the mission.
All in all, both flights are prepared and excited for the next snowstorm.
Misawa's neighbors near Tokyo at Yokota Air Base, Japan, also felt the wrath of this brutal Valentine's weekend snowstorm. In fact, Yokota AB received the highest amount of snowfall ever recorded for the month of February at 21 inches.
"The snow became so heavy the plows were unable to keep up, and Yokota base operations were suspended for two days," said Maj. Brandee Harrall, 374 OSS weather flight commander.
Misawa has a strong lead on keeping the title of the snowiest air force base in the world. Coming in at second place, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, averages 73.4 inches and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, trails close behind with 73.1 inches of snowfall each winter season.