Story and photos by Bianca Sowders
ANSBACH, Germany (October 2, 2019) — Inclement weather phenomena like snow, ice, rain and fog are part of the fall and winter season in Southern Germany just like the holiday markets. Making sure community members are safe to navigate roads and walkways is a main concern for USAG Ansbach. Procedures are in place to ensure all precautions are taken; however, community members need to play an active part by staying informed and making safe decisions.
What are the first steps when inclement weather (fog, snow, ice) occurs?
Military Police patrol cars check the roads on specific routes on- and off-post between 2 – 4 a.m. during inclement weather season. The gathered data and information is sent to the Director of Emergency Services (DES). Road condition determinations are made by the Garrison Commander in coordination with the DES by 5 a.m. and posted at https://home.army.mil/roads/index.php by 5:30 a.m. In case of overnight snow fall, DPW and German snow removal services begin around 4 a.m. (or earlier, if necessary), with the focus on primary roads. Secondary roads may not be cleared for several days, depending on the amount of snow. Road condition determination is a general call and may not reflect everyone’s situation. Weather conditions may not always be identical within the USAG Ansbach footprint. Know your local and general situation in order to determine your individual course of action.
Military road conditions (GREEN, AMBER, RED and BLACK) apply to military dispatched vehicles only! If conditions are BLACK, no military dispatched vehicles, including TMPs, will be allowed to move. The only exception is Emergency Services (fire trucks, MPs, etc.) and snow plows.
For the rest of us driving privately owned vehicles (POVs), military road conditions are a good indicator of the safety of roads on- and off-post. Soldiers and employees need to make a weather call to their supervisor if they feel it is unsafe to drive, and get further instructions. Road conditions, published or unpublished, are not reason alone to miss work or official appointments. If the Garrison Commander determines that weather conditions deem it necessary to close the installation, it will be included in the road condition message.
Everyone should use common sense and side with safety if they are not sure they can drive safely in inclement weather or if the forecast calls for worsening conditions – when in doubt, do not drive!
Road conditions in detail:
GREEN – Dry road surface, no ice or snow on the road surface; visibility is more than 50 meters (160 feet).
AMBER – Any of the following on the road surface: Patches of black ice/slush, up to four inches of snow and/or visibility between 20-50 meters (60-160 feet) – slow down (below 50kph/32mph) and drive with caution!
RED – Any of the following on the road surface: Flooding, drifting snow, ice sheets, four to eight inches of snow and/or visibility is less than 20 meters (60 feet).
BLACK – Any of the following on the road surface: Heavy flooding, heavy snow drifts, extreme sheets of ice, more than eight inches of snow and/or visibility less than 15 meters (50 feet)
During significant winter weather with heavy prolonged snowfall and possibly delayed snow and ice removal, DES and the Garrison Commander may change the road conditions to RED and decide on a two-hour delay for school and garrison employees in order to allow extra time for snow removal. Check the appropriate channels before you head out. Ensure you confirm a delay with your supervisor.
Example: If a two-hour delay is announced, the school buses will arrive at the designated stops two hours later than usual. Garrison employees can arrive two hours after their usual start time, which allows them to take care of snow removal at home and have extra driving time.
In extreme/severe winter conditions, such as heavy blizzards, the road conditions may be changed to BLACK. The message going out to the community could include the following: “Schools are closed. Only mission essential personnel report to work, as designated by the unit chain of command. Stay home or indoors when possible.” Call your supervisor, if you are not sure what applies to you.
Winter driving tips:
Reduce speed and increase distance between vehicles; don’t try to pass and be aware that leaves or hidden sheets of ice (especially on bridges and overpasses) may turn the road slippery. Do not drive outside of your comfort zone or capabilities; if you are insecure about driving in winter weather, it may be better to postpone that shopping trip to a later time.
Have the appropriate tires! Only approved tires are allowed on German roads, once the conditions change to icy and slippery. New winter tires, produced after Jan. 1, 2018, must have the “alpine symbol” – alpine peaks with a snowflake inside – printed on them. Older winter tires are grandfathered until 2024 and may have just the “M + S” symbol pictured on them. There is no designated time frame to mount winter tires, but a common rule of thumb is to use them from October to Easter. Same rules apply to all-weather tires, must also be marked with one of the symbols above and have at least 4 mm of tread depth to qualify as winter tires; to test your tires, place a penny with Lincoln’s head pointing down in between the treads — if you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, your tires need to be replaced. Use snow chains, if necessary; definitely carry some “quick mounts” with you when you go driving in the mountains. Add extra travel time any time of the day, and, once again, slow down!
Snow and ice removal at Army Family Housing quarters, barracks and residential areas:
Roads on post will be plowed as soon as possible, but please be careful and patient. Residents are responsible for snow removal in their own drive-ways. It is the responsibility of the occupants of Army Family Housing, barracks or quarters, to clean, shovel and/or salt both their stairs and sidewalks adjacent to the facility. In case of sheet ice, use a limited amount of special rock salt, which is available at the Self Help Stores on Katterbach Kaserne and Storck Barracks. Building coordinators should ensure sidewalks are kept free of snow and ice.
Private rental residents are usually responsible for snow and ice removal in their own drive-ways and on the public sidewalk bordering their residence; make sure to check with your landlord. In most cases, personnel living off post in private rentals are required to keep their sidewalks and access to their property cleared from snow and ice 7 a.m. -7 p.m. every host nation work day.
Do not use rock salt over plants or lawns, as it will cause severe damage. Do not use rock salt over metal, it will corrode the metal. Use it sparingly and not in areas where the melted snow will drain into streams, rivers, or lakes; salt residue can pollute the environment. Additionally, it does not work well in temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit (– 9 Celcius). Environmentally safe alternatives to salt are sand, fine gravel (grit) or organic granulate, which will not melt the ice, but give you traction and comply with host nation regulations.
IMCOM EUROPE Road conditions: https://home.army.mil/roads/
USAG Ansbach homepage: https://home.army.mil/ansbach
USAG Ansbach on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/usag.ansbach.7
USAG Ansbach on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GarrisonAnsbach