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Rolly Flores revs up his snowblower in front of his main base house at Misawa Air Base on Tuesday.

Rolly Flores revs up his snowblower in front of his main base house at Misawa Air Base on Tuesday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Rolly Flores revs up his snowblower in front of his main base house at Misawa Air Base on Tuesday.

Rolly Flores revs up his snowblower in front of his main base house at Misawa Air Base on Tuesday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Snow is cleared from the Edgren High School parking lot Tuesday morning at Misawa Air Base.

Snow is cleared from the Edgren High School parking lot Tuesday morning at Misawa Air Base. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Airman Dimika Singleton, 18, had never touched snow before her first Air Force assignment uprooted her from Tampa, Fla., to northern Japan less than a month ago.

The novelty quickly wore off.

“I don’t like it,” Singleton, a fitness specialist, said.

Winter is far from over in Misawa, and snowfall to date this season is hovering around 98 inches, according to Capt. Stephen Barlow, commander of 35th Operations Support Squadron weather flight. In February, it’s snowed on more than half the month’s 15 days so far, with about 27 inches accumulating.

For Singleton, who lugged a pair of snow boots from Tampa on her sponsor’s advice, the ample flakes take getting used to. She’s hesitant to drive off base — only with a buddy, she says — and she’s not too keen on winter sports.

“I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet,” she said. “Maybe next winter. I’m used to surfing, not snowboarding.”

Snow usually blankets northern Japan for much of the winter, but this year, base sidewalks and roads remained dry until late December; ski areas pushed back opening dates and locals wondered if a repeat of 2004, when only 78 inches accumulated, was on order. But shortly after the calendar made winter official on Dec. 21, the snow blew in and hasn’t let up since.

Average snowfall in Misawa is about 125 inches and “we’re at 80 percent of that long-term average,” Barlow said. Last year at this time, 55.9 inches was recorded.

“We’re on pace to exceed the average,” Barlow added. “We’re probably headed for 150ish, 160ish (inches) kind of year … but it’s still too difficult to tell how much we’re going to get.”

The highest monthly snowfall total was a whopping 49.6 inches in January; the average for the month is 38.3 inches, Barlow said. In January, there were 19 days when more than a trace of snow fell — up to 7.1 inches. The most snow that fell at one time this season was 10.6 inches on Feb. 10.

“It’s just very frequent events of not really a lot of snow,” Barlow said.

The heavy snowfall has prompted officials in Aomori Prefecture to set up a temporary headquarters to assist residents with preventing accidents and advise farmers on protecting crops, said a disaster prevention and fire defense official Tuesday. The maximum accumulation from a single snow event reached 63 inches — the sixth highest on record. Areas north and west of Misawa in the mountains traditionally receive a lot more snow than Misawa city.

Ski resorts throughout the area are reporting good snow depths. Hakkoda in Aomori Prefecture reports a current snow depth of 187 inches — the seventh deepest among Japan’s numerous ski and snowboard resorts.

That’s good news for base residents like Tanya Crisostomo, a military spouse.

“I love it,” she said while clearing snow from her vehicle Tuesday morning. “I love to snowboard. When it’s great down here, it’s even better up there” in the mountains.

For some base residents, the persistent snow necessitates other forms of exercise: Sidewalks in family housing areas must be cleared before the start of school.

“I’m getting tired of it,” sighed Rolly Flores, while revving up his snowblower Tuesday morning as wet, heavy snowflakes fell. “It’s like there’s no end to the snow.”

Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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