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Almost 6 inches of snow didn't stop at least one person from running around the base track at Aviano Air Base, Italy, on Tuesday morning. But there wasn't anyone in sight at lunchtime, and the adjacent fitness center was among the many facilities closed around base.

Almost 6 inches of snow didn't stop at least one person from running around the base track at Aviano Air Base, Italy, on Tuesday morning. But there wasn't anyone in sight at lunchtime, and the adjacent fitness center was among the many facilities closed around base. (Kent Harris / S&S)

A long weekend got a little longer Tuesday for some servicemembers in Europe, thanks to Mother Nature.

Snowfall in Germany, northern Italy, Belgium and England prompted delays, postponements and cancellations on many military installations. Some people even got a five-day weekend because of the Presidents Day holiday and a military down day on Friday.

“We had a good amount of snow across the central part of Europe,” said Tech. Sgt. Lee Utsey of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Operational Weather Squadron in Sembach, Germany.

Snow at this time of year isn’t unusual for many parts of Europe. But Utsey said the amount of snow that fell was unusual.

Hohenfels, in eastern Germany, received a foot of snow, almost twice the average for the entire month of February. Eight inches fell in Sembach, a few inches above average. Stuttgart received only a few inches, but the surrounding mountains saw more than a foot.

In England, most American communities registered only a trace of snow. But nonessential personnel and students were told to wait a few hours before heading to base.

South of the Alps, almost 6 inches fell from 10 p.m. Monday night through 6 a.m. Tuesday morning on Aviano Air Base in Italy. The average for the month is 1.2 inches and just 3.7 inches for the entire year.

Maj. Tamara Parsons, commander of the weather flight for the 31st Operations Support Squadron at Aviano, said heavy snowfalls happen every three years or so. On Tuesday, schools, the commissary, banks and many other offices around base were closed. The base exchange did open on schedule, with a reduced staff.

“This is bad,” said Orlando Taylor, who was wiping snow off his Volvo in a base parking lot. He and his wife, Mindy, who works on base, were staying overnight on the base because they couldn’t easily reach their home in Maniago.

“We couldn’t get up the driveway,” he said.

Of course, the amount of snow is relative. Taylor was once stationed at Minot, N.D. Harry Brown, a teacher at the high school, also lived in North Dakota for a time.

“This is nothing,” he said with a smile while shopping at the exchange.

It was enough for 9-year-old Taylor Crafton, who was trying to build a snowman Tuesday.

Master Sgt. Chris Crafton said his daughter has grown up in Georgia, where snow isn’t exactly plentiful. He said they were told they probably wouldn’t see much of it at Aviano either.

“So we were surprised when we woke up this morning,” he said.

Utsey said the low-pressure front that brought the snow might stay around a bit longer. So more snow is possible this week in much of Europe.

That’s also true in Aviano, Parsons said: “But nothing like we got today.”

Utsey said weather updates for military communities are available from American Forces Network television or radio or by checking the squadron’s Web site: http://ows.public.sembach.af.mil.

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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