Patriot Express passengers exit their flight after landing at Misawa Air Base, Japan, in 2017.

Patriot Express passengers exit their flight after landing at Misawa Air Base, Japan, in 2017. (Sadie Colbert/U.S. Air Force)

Twenty-two inches of snow has delayed a Patriot Express flight out of Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, forcing passengers to lay over in a building set aside for coronavirus quarantine, an Air Force spokesman said Thursday.

More than 200 soldiers, sailors and airmen due to fly on the government-contracted passenger flight had been stranded at Misawa for 72 hours, according to a message posted Thursday on the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook group.

“When we aren’t crammed into the passenger terminal unable to socially distance, we’re sleeping in a condemned dorm for covid positive individuals with no working heat in zero degree weather!!!” the post, attributed to the group’s inbox, read.

Misawa’s 35th Fighter Wing is aware of weather safety delays associated with the departure of a Patriot Express flight from Misawa Air Base to Seattle, Maj. Cody Chiles, a wing spokesman, told Stars and Stripes in an email Thursday evening.

Misawa received more than 22 inches of snowfall in 72 hours, he said.

Record snowfall has hit areas of Japan’s main island this week. Around 1,100 vehicles were stranded on an expressway and 10,000 Japanese households suffered blackouts Thursday due to heavy snow, the Kyodo news agency reported.

In accordance with Misawa’s coronavirus mitigation procedures, all the delayed passengers are being lodged in towers designated for personnel in restriction of movement, or ROM, status, Chiles said.

The accommodation is separate from where those who have tested positive for the coronavirus are isolated, he added.

“If a member tests positive for COVID while in the ROM tower, the room is thoroughly sanitized through a contracted cleaning service; and the room is not utilized until it is deemed safe for occupation by 35th Medical Group Public Health officials,” Chiles said.

COVID-19 is the coronavirus respiratory disease.

Misawa leaders are investigating claims of heating issues in the ROM tower and action will be taken as required, Chiles said.

“The safety, health, and welfare of all personnel at Misawa Air Base is our top priority,” he said.

The outbound Patriot Express flight is scheduled to depart on Friday, he added. Twitter: @SethRobson1

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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