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Airmen with 167th helped Harpers Ferry dig out of snow

December 30, 2009

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- Behind the steering wheel of a dark blue tri-axle dump truck on the afternoon of Dec. 22, Staff Sgt. Josh Michael waited as a fellow airman operating a backhoe scooped up another load of snow from a street in downtown Harpers Ferry.

By the end of the day, an estimated 100 tons of snow were expected to be removed from the streets and sidewalks. When Michael wasn't unloading the snow in the parking lot of the Hilltop House Hotel and Restaurant off East Ridge Street, he was clearing it from the streets with the dump truck's plow.

Airmen from the West Virginia Air National Guard 167th Airlift Wing worked together to remove snow from Washington, High and Potomac streets and from sidewalks in the historic community. Both Michael and Tech Sgt. Michael Stanley were placed on state orders for their snow removal mission.

After Harpers Ferry was pummeled with 22 inches during the storm, Mayor James Addy said he received a phone call from Barb Miller, director of Jefferson County's Office of Emergency Services, asking if the municipality needed help from the state digging out. Miller is the liaison between the state and the town of Harpers Ferry.

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Addy, an Army veteran, praised the help provided by the airmen, saying it was beyond the town's ability to remove all of the snow.

"Our town has limited financial resources," he said.

Addy noted that Harpers Ferry Police Chief D.H. Buracker even was enlisted Saturday night to help remove the mounds of snow that blanketed the town's residential area.

Although the 2000 census showed Harpers Ferry with a population of 320, Addy said 150,000 to 200,000 people visit the historic community annually.

And foot traffic is limited if snow blocks the way to area shops and tourist hot spots.

Addy said without the help of the 167th Airlift Wing in the merchant area, things still would be a mess. He said snow had been removed in the upper part of the town's residential area before getting help from the local Air National Guard.

"We want to give them a big thank you," Addy said.

"They did a great job," said Buracker, whose father served with the 167th Airlift Wing.

Stanley, a liquid fuels mechanic with the 167th Airlift Wing's Civil Engineering Squadron, said he was happy to be able to lend a hand and make the streets safer in Harpers Ferry.

"We want to make the streets safe for traveling," the Warfordsburg, Pa., resident said. Stanley's community was hit with about 18 inches of snow during the storm.

Michael, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., found himself digging out from 20 inches of snow there.

The heavy mobile equipment mechanic with the 167th Airlift Wing's Logistics Readiness Squadron said he was glad to help out with snow removal operations.

"We have all the equipment to do it with," Michael said.

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