Great Lakes Overcomes Blizzard

Story Number: NNS110208-16Release Date: 2/8/2011 1:55:00 PM
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By John Sheppard, Naval Station Great Lakes Public Affairs

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL), Ill., endured a winter storm Feb. 1-2, which was deemed the third highest accumulation of snow on record for the Chicago area by meteorologists.

A blizzard warning was issued Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. and canceled at Feb. 2 at 1:15 p.m.

Snowfall total from the storm was measured at 20.2 inches at O'Hare International Airport, with blowing snow creating 4-5 foot snow drifts and wind gusts in excess of 50 knots.

Capt. John Malfitano, NSGL commanding officer, declared mission essential personnel only for Feb. 2 and authorized a two-hour delay in reporting for personnel Feb. 3.

Mission essential personnel from Public Works Department Great Lakes (PWD GL), NSGL Food Service, Naval Security Force, the Great Lakes Fire Department, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and other NSGL departments worked around the clock to clear snow, keep the streets safe and feed recruits and students. Installation personnel were kept apprised of installation status and available service through the Shore Wide Area Alert Network, press releases and Facebook postings.

"The extraordinary dedication of our people - military, civilian and contractors alike - were an inspiration to all of us at this base," said Malfitano. "I witnessed this in the public works workers who cleared our streets, in the Goodwill employees feeding our students and recruits, and in the courage of our fire and security forces, who braved the elements to keep us all safe and rescue those who needed their help."

"This was an all hands effort and one of the most impressive I have seen. NAVSTA (naval station) and TSC (training support center) worked together like a well-practiced team. Simply an amazing effort!" said Capt. Peter Lintner, TSC Great Lakes commanding officer.

"All divisions and departments worked very well-together, great communication and cooperation - just a total and awe-inspiring team effort!" said Capt. Steve Bethke, Recruit Training Command (RTC) commanding officer. "Employees from Goodwill Industries showed tremendous dedication and stayed in one of our barracks so that recruits wouldn't miss any meals. Our medical staff did the same thing."

During the course of the blizzard, PWD GL plowed nearly two feet of snow from 56 miles of roadways, 46 acres of sidewalks and 143 parking lots across the installation.

"We were able to get the base operational in 16 hours," said Cmdr. Joel Sensenig, NSGL public works officer. "That's a testament to the professionalism of our workers."

"NAVFAC (Naval Facilities Engineering Command) did a phenomenal job on snow removal," said Lintner. "The teams hit the most important areas first and then got the rest. The amount of snow they moved was truly impressive. Great job by all involved."

The amount of snow moved was in excess of 600,000 cubic yards, which is equivalent to 120,000 standard dump truck loads, according to Lt. Rob Kleinman, production officer, PWD GL.

Thirty-eight PWD GL employees worked directly on snow removal.

"These personnel provided 24-hour coverage from the beginning of the snow event early Tuesday morning through the following weekend," said Kleinman.
"Although the main effort of snow removal was completed by PWD GL personnel, the tireless work from Sailors and civilians from NSGL 1st Lieutenant's Division, TSC and various supporting commands was a vital piece to the overall success of the snow removal operations."

"The TSC snow removal team, our barracks staff and students also did their part," said Lintner. "Our students worked all day with shovels to clear the walkways, the staff was driving snow plows and clearing parking lots and other areas of the base and our barracks staff made sure the Sailors got out to eat, got proper rest and were entertained for the day."

"Holistically, our Public Works personnel did a herculean job. Many of them stayed on base from Tuesday morning and didn't leave until Thursday to ensure that all vital functions of the base stayed operational. Members of our snow removal team, steam and water plants, high voltage and shops personnel and dispatch all pulled extra shifts, due to reliefs being snowed in," said Kleinman.

"I can't thank the Public Works Department enough for all of the hard work in helping clear our lots so we could get our folks back to work," said Dave O'Brien, chief of staff and deputy commander of U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, housed in Building 3400 next to Burkey Mall. "The snow plow guys did an awesome job in the face of some pretty huge challenges!"

"Even in the conditions, Public Works was quick to respond to power outages and leaking ceilings. They did a great job keeping our facilities fully operational," said Bethke.

The Great Lakes Fire Department responded to a report of a vehicle stranded outside of Gate 5 in blizzard conditions. The vehicles' occupants, all employees of Lake Forest College, had been stranded since Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. The people trapped in the car - Carol Moen, Ann Denakin, Alicia Garcia and Patrick Coleman - made repeated calls for assistance to the North Chicago Police Department and Lake County Sheriff's Office, who were unable to respond due to extreme blizzard and civil emergency conditions.

NSGL Dispatcher Rosario Gersom verified their need for assistance via video surveillance and notified the Fire Department and Naval Security Force.

The Fire Department responded with two engines, Engine 1995 led by Fire Lt. Chad Miller and Engine 1994 led by Deputy Fire Chief Gelacio Rodriguez. Miller's crew plowed a path to the stranded vehicle, allowing Rodriguez' team to render assistance and transport the occupants.

All of them were safely removed and transported to NSGL Fire Station 1 where they were evaluated by emergency medical technicians, who determined that they had no injuries. After having the opportunity to inform their family members of their well being, occupants were temporarily lodged at bachelor housing until blizzard conditions subsided.

At the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, 75 staff members stayed at the facility overnight, ensuring shifts were covered and the medical and dental processing of U.S. Navy recruits continued without delays.

Nick Butera, an MWR recreation aide, stayed overnight so that he could open the field house after the snow stopped. In all, 20 workers stayed overnight at the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites, according to John Prue, MWR installation program director.

Civilian and contractor personnel, normally prohibited from eating at the galley, were authorized to do so during this significant weather event. Despite the area being crippled by 20-plus inches of snow, NSGL's Food Service provider, Goodwill Industries, was able to maintain continuity of operations at all 10 galleys that serve the three major on board training commands - RTC, TSC and the Naval Hospital Corps School (NHCS).

Approximately 100 Goodwill workers, including 31 supervisors/managers, willingly agreed to spend the night on base at the height of the storm to ensure continuity of operations the next day. Food service efforts were led by Troy Konz, Donna Kravetsky, Mike Wynn, Joe Nikolaus, Keith McRae, Rennan David and Andrea Yarber.

"Goodwill was able to serve hot meals to all Sailors across three meal periods during the storm; a challenge that was made more difficult by the fact that TSC and NHCS suspended operations prior to the storm and restricted liberty to on-base significantly increasing the load on the galleys with the on-base commercial eateries secured because of the conditions," said Mike Moran, NSGL and Navy Region Midwest Business Manager.

"Galley 535 personnel provided amazing support during the blizzard," said Lintner. "Volunteers stayed overnight and then manned the galley around 3 a.m. to get ready for breakfast. The same crew worked all three meals and provided hot chow for our Sailors all day long. The staff was exhausted by the end of the day, but they remained cheerful and treated our Sailors with the utmost respect and courtesy. It was plain to see the gratitude in the Sailors faces as well. The galley staff was invaluable to keeping our folks well fed and out working on snow removal."

Despite the conditions, several Goodwill staff members made their way to the galleys, including eight deaf staff members who walked more than two miles in the blizzard to get to work.

Despite being housed in the USS Enterprise Barracks and with the roads not yet plowed, Goodwill employees walked from Camp John Paul Jones to Camp Moffett during the storm to open the USS Pearl Harbor Barracks at 5:30 a.m., in order for the five recruit divisions housed there to be fed. It took the workers more than an hour to walk the distance in the wind and snow.

For more news from NSGL, visit the NSGL Facebook page at

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