Safety: Winter snow season approaches

A map of snow routes at the Air Force Academy. Emergency access routes, marked in red, receive top priority for snow-clearing operations, followed by major roads (in blue) and less-trafficked areas (in green). (U.S. Air Force illustration)

A map of snow routes at the Air Force Academy. Emergency access routes, marked in red, receive top priority for snow-clearing operations, followed by major roads (in blue) and less-trafficked areas (in green). (U.S. Air Force illustration)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Mother Nature will bestow winter upon us with its share of snow storms, icy road conditions and adverse weather. Once again, the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron has geared up for the snow season. 

As you drive around the base, you will notice that snow route signs and snow gates are in position. These are designed to guide you through the safest parts of the base during adverse weather. Please familiarize yourself with the attached map displaying the snow removal priorities. Emergency access or snow routes will normally be kept open 24/7. Other major roads will be open by 5 a.m. and maintained until 10 p.m., unless weather dictates otherwise. 

During night clearing operations, major roads may not receive the same attention as the emergency access roads, so please stay on the emergency access roads or snow routes whenever possible. All other remaining roads will be cleared within 24 hours after each snowfall. 

Prior to forecasted storms, snow removal crews will apply anti-icing spray to prepare the roads for your safety. After initial application, drivers may experience a slippery, almost greasy feel as they brake and turn, so while the condition is only temporary, please be especially cautious while driving. 

Use extreme caution when driving near snow removal equipment. Always turn your headlights on. Snow plow operators must travel at specific speeds to cast the snow from the plow blade and clear it from the roads. The weight of the compacted snow rolling off the plow blade could damage your vehicle, so please stay at least 100 feet behind all snow removal equipment. When the granular form of deicer is applied from broadcast spreaders, the sand-like material can also damage your vehicle if you try to pass or if you're following the snow plow too closely. 

Vehicles that become inoperative should be moved as far from the road edge as possible, have their emergency flashers turned on and be removed as soon as possible. Do not leave vehicles on road shoulders, dirt or grassy areas, as they could become buried in snow if the bad weather persists. 

Never drive onto a road blocked by a closed snow gate; that is extremely dangerous. Even though it's closed to traffic, plows may be clearing the road and do not expect any other vehicles in the area. Visibility during winter winds and snow events can be very difficult for snow removal operators and other motorists; posing major safety concerns throughout the Academy. Never jog or bicycle on roads during snow removal periods. Plow operators have had accidents in years past due to hard braking to avoid runners and bicyclists on roads and shoulders. 

Parking lots will primarily be plowed at night until they are cleared. If snowfall occurs during the day, snow crews will attempt to maintain safe routes into and out of parking lots. Overall, parking lot clearance during the day is limited because of parked cars. Members departing the base for an extended period should remove their vehicles promptly from all parking lot areas. 

Finally, the most important element for enjoying a safe snow season is adjusting your driving habits to match current road conditions. During snow and icy conditions, you should reduce your speed by at least 15 mph. During adverse weather, speeds on Interstate 25 can go from the speed limit to 25 mph very quickly when visibility or pavement conditions have deteriorated; the same applies on the Academy. Similarly, motorists should increase their following distance because of the reduced friction on road surfaces. Most of all, don't be in a hurry. Allow yourself enough time to get to and from your destination, and above all, be patient. 

Any delayed reporting or base closures on the Academy will be released to local radio and television stations through Public Affairs. Please tune into your local radio or television stations or to www.usafa.af.mil before you leave for work. 

For updates regarding Academy road conditions during inclement weather, call the Academy recorded road conditions line at 333-2800 or the USAFA Command Center automated notification center at 333-6249.