Snow shuts some bases in England
RAF MILDENHALL, England — A snowstorm anticipated for several days arrived near midnight Tuesday, draping the broad landscape of east England with a clean white blanket more than 3 inches thick before leaving a star-filled pre-dawn sky in its wake.
The snow was enough to close schools at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Feltwell and cancel work for all but key personnel at RAF Lakenheath. Essential workers were told to show up at normal times at nearby RAF Mildenhall, but others were told to report to work three hours late.
By midafternoon Wednesday, Mildenhall was urging squadrons to send people home early if possible. Also, the base declared a yellow alert for Thursday, meaning all nonessential people could go to work later than usual.
The storm dropped 3½ inches of snow in about five hours, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Walton of the 48th Operational Support Squadron’s weather unit at RAF Lakenheath.
“It started about 11:25 (p.m.), really picked up about 12 (a.m.),” he said. “It stopped about 4 or 4:30 a.m.”
He said another storm headed toward England’s East Anglia region was expected to add 1 to 3 inches. Soon after midday Wednesday, flakes were again falling from a sky that had been clear and blue all morning before clouds rolled in before noon.
The temperature was below freezing with enough of a breeze from the north to make it feel colder.
The 48th Fighter Wing called off flying operations for the day at RAF Lakenheath, said Maj. Francisco Hamm, the base spokesman.
At RAF Mildenhall, the 100th Air Refueling Wing scrubbed three missions but planned to carry out two others, said Capt. Shane Balken, chief of public affairs.
Balken said the wing went to yellow alert about 4 a.m. as snow still fell. There had been no change to that as midday passed. The speed limit on the slick base roads was 5 mph.
“We’ll be open for business,” Chief Master Sgt. Tom Voyce of the 100th Comptrollers Squadron said about 8 a.m. Wednesday. “In fact, we are open for business.”
“I thought it was great,” 10-year-old Caleb Spencer, a fourth-grader, said of the news that school had been canceled. He is the son of Master Sgt. Ronnie Spencer of the 314th Recruiting Squadron, who had recently transferred to England from San Antonio.
All other Department of Defense Dependents Schools in England, from RAF Menwith Hill in the far north to RAF Croughton in the west and London in the south, held classes as usual.
Classes were held, too, at RAF Alconbury, about 40 miles west of RAF Mildenhall, despite a blanket of snow on the ground.
Kadie Duncan, a volunteer at Alconbury High School, is from south Georgia and saw snow for the first time in her life Wednesday morning.
“I thought it was beautiful,” she said. “And then I almost fell down walking outside.”
Roads were slick from the packed snow, but Suffolk County police said traffic accidents were few and far between as people drove more slowly than usual.
“We’ve had fewer accidents than normal,” said a Suffolk Constabulary spokeswoman.
She said minor accidents were mostly the result of people sliding on the slick roads, but there were no serious accidents.