Record snow in South Korea closes schools, limits bases
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The heavy snow blanketing much of South Korea early Tuesday forced most U.S. military installations to limit staffing, cancel meetings, halt bus and taxi service and cancel classes for thousands of students.
Seven of the system’s nine schools in South Korea closed Tuesday because of the weather, said Peter Grenier, assistant superintendent, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea in Seoul.
Only C.T. Joy Elementary School at Chinhae Naval Base and Pusan American School at Camp Hialeah in Busan were open Tuesday.
At Osan Air Base, “from 2 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., we received 7 inches of snow … an all-time record” for a 24-hour period in February, said Air Force Maj. David Smith, 51st Fighter Wing spokesman. Snowfall caused scattered delays on the base and impeded food deliveries to the food court and other on-base eateries when road conditions were “red.”
“Everything was kind of delayed,” Smith said. “We worked to get the snow removed from the roads, the flight line, taxiways … got everything going.”
By noon, officials changed the road condition code to “amber” and the pace began to pick up, he said.
Army and Air Force Exchange Service taxi service and on-base shuttle buses also began running again when the condition changed to amber, said Ron Daugherty, general manager for the AAFES central and southern exchange.
Area IIn the Army’s Area I north of Seoul, nonmission-essential staffers were released from work at 1 p.m. Tuesday before roads turned icy, said Margaret Banish-Donaldson, Area I Support Activity spokeswoman. “They’re worried about the people driving to get home safe,” she said.
The early release applied to both U.S. and South Korean employees at all seven Area I installations, she said.
Also canceled was the biweekly Area I staff meeting at Camp Red Cloud “because of the road conditions,” Banish-Donaldson said.
“We have people that come from the other camps to attend.”
Buses and taxis were in service by the afternoon, she said.
Area IIAt Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, the Army’s Area II Support Activity reported only “slight” impact on base operations. Road conditions were at red when the workday began but changed to amber shortly after noon.
Some services, including the Child Development Center and Army Community Service, operated with reduced staffing.
Area IIICamp Humphrey’s commissary did not open.
“We didn’t even open the doors there,” said Steven E. Peterson, store director for Camp Humphreys and Osan and Kunsan air bases.
Taxi and bus service did not operate until road conditions were changed from red to amber. Child and Youth Services closed at 2 p.m.
Officials directed that Area III installations reduce staffing to essential personnel and canceled the Area III radio show, which would have required Camp Humphreys officials to drive to the American Forces Network offices in Osan.
Also canceled were the regularly scheduled weekly command and staff briefing and monthly leader’s information briefing.
Area IVIn southeastern South Korea, the Camp Walker-Camp Carroll shuttle bus was halted from 7 to 9 a.m.
“So, other than just inconvenience or people coming in a little bit later than usual, it’s business as usual,” Area IV spokesman Galen Putnam said.
Public transportationAffected, too, was the peninsula’s public transportation.
On the Metro No. 1 subway line that includes stops in Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys areas, an equipment malfunction at Byeongjeom Station caused a 30-minute delay, said Korea Railroad Corp. officials.
Korail officials said trains were exceptionally busy Tuesday because many travelers opted not to use their cars on slick streets.
Also, more than 60 domestic flights around South Korea were canceled, said Gimpo Airport Corporation officials.
Korean National Police Agency Traffic Safety Division officials said Tuesday morning that nationwide data on traffic accidents would be available Wednesday.
Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.
Snowfall in some of the areas where U.S. military installations are located was as follows Tuesday:
Camp Red Cloud, 3 inches; Yongsan, 2½ inches; Osan Air Base, 7 inches; Camp Humphreys, 5 inches; Kunsan Air Base, 1½ inches; Daegu, 1 inch.
Overnight Tuesday, up to an additional inch was expected to fall at Osan Air Base, Camp Humphreys and Kunsan Air Base, and a slight “trace” was expected in the Camp Red Cloud area and in Seoul, said Staff Sgt. William Mendez, a weather forecaster with the Air Force’s 607th Weather Squadron in Seoul.
On Wednesday, the snow was to have ended in the Osan-Humphreys area by around noon and in the Kunsan area by evening, Mendez said.
As of Tuesday night, no further snow was in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, Mendez said.