My Loran Tales #2

By Ned Stevens

THE DAY WE DISCOVERED THE SNOW WAS OVER 20 FEET DEEP

 

Having spent two years on Loran C stations in Alaska I became used to the snow. The accumulation varied highly between the two locations. I assume that the wind patterns had something to do with this accumulation.

The station at Sitkinak Island consisted of three buildings, the crews quarters, the signal power building, and the transmitter building. The transmitter building was located about a quarter mile from the other two buildings. The crews quarters and signal power buildings were parallel with each other and were about 50 feet apart, with two concrete sidewalks connecting the two buildings. There also a gravel parking area between the crews quarters and the signal power building, as well a gravel road to the transmitter building and the runway apron. I only remember one occasion the snow accumulation on the road to the transmitter building was deep enough so that we could not drive there in the station 4X4.

The snow accumulation between the other two building was another story. The snow always seemed to settle between the building and on the sidewalks. The wind pattern was such that close to the crews quarters and signal power buildings the ground would be bare. I recall we didnít have a snow plow at that station.

At Attu Loran Station is was a different story. Not only did we have a large snow plow, but also had a large snow blower. The scoop of this snow blower was approximately six feet square. There were times that both the snow plow and the snow blower were in use 24 hours a day just to keep the runway clear enough that planes could land.

The buildings at Attu were somewhat different also. The crews quarters and the signal power were all one building. The transmitter building was separate, and in addition there were a large warehouse, and a remote Air Force site. This Air Force site collected data and the data was transmitted to Shemya Air Force via the Loran station.

This site seemed five or six miles from the main building of Attu Loran Station. If one were to visit the site in the summer months one might think it was a strange building as there were two entrance doors, one on the ground floor, and one at the second story level. What appeared strange was that there was no access to this door at second story level. In addition to the building there was an antenna tower nearby that was about 30 feet tall. Near the top of the tower was a yagi antenna pointing toward the Loran Station. The equipment was maintained by the Loran Station personnel, and it gave very little trouble but when it did it wasnít in the summer but in the winter.

On that inevitable trouble day, the repair crew was assembled and loaded what we thought necessary for the repairs into the station snow cat. When we arrived at the site, the building could not be seen. The top of the antenna tower was visible a few feet above the surface of the snow. Several members of the repair crew knew about where the building was in relationship to the antenna tower so they started digging down. After digging down about ten feet the second story door to the building was located. We entered the building, the repairs were made, and we returned to the Loran Station.

That was a day to remember, over 20 feet of snow on the ground. Now that upper door made sense.

 

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