Tokyo-area bases recovering after heaviest snowfall in 4 years
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 22, 2018
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Heavy snow meant a day off work Tuesday for many troops and civilians stationed in and around the Japanese capital.
“We observed 12.5 inches,” said Sr. Airman Jeremy Loehr, a weather forecaster with the 374th Operations Support Squadron, of Monday’s snowfall at Yokota.
That’s nearly double the 7 inches forecasters predicted and about as much as the last major snowfall on the base in February 2014.
Only mission-essential personnel reported to work at Yokota and Naval Air Facility Atsugi in nearby Kanagawa Prefecture. Others were urged to stay off the roads while emergency crews cleared them.
At Camp Zama, also in Kanagawa, personnel were told to report to work at noon — a four-hour delay. Base residents were encouraged to monitor official social media pages for updates on when services would resume. Emergency crews got some help from Mother Nature as temperatures rose.
At Zama, most base services were restored by noon, as snow dripped from trees and rapidly shrinking snowmen. At Yokosuka Naval Base — about a 70-minute train ride south of Tokyo — many base services were either closed or slated for a 10 a.m. start because of weather conditions. Later in the morning, the base ordered most facilities to reopen by noon as conditions improved, although some, such as the base ID card center and the veterinary clinic remained closed. Most snow accumulation on roads disappeared by afternoon as temperatures rose above 50 degrees.
Back at Yokota, families enjoyed the extra time to frolic in the snow, sledding and building snowmen.
“It’s great to see everyone out here having a good time,” Tech. Sgt. Ryan Babel, an orthotics technician with the 374th Medical Group, said while dodging snowballs near a housing area on the base’s east side. “The kids are having a blast.”
Stars and Stripes reporter Tyler Hlavac contributed to this report.