ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Thunder and lightning are commonplace for summer in Middle Georgia.
On July 22, however, Mother Nature demonstrated how dangerous such weather can be when lightning struck Robins’ taxiway, damaging its asphalt.
“We had a lighting strike occur where the asphalt on Southwest taxiway shoulder at the intersection of Taxiway Hotel and Alpha was struck and damaged,” said Rod Eady, 78th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager. “The strike resulted in large pieces of asphalt debris scattered around a 3 foot by 3 foot area and smaller pieces in a 25 foot radius.”
Roddy Nixon, Jr., meteorological technician and lead forecaster in the 78th OSS Weather Flight, whose team tracks weather for the base, said his flight had been aggressively monitoring activity during the afternoon and early evening that day.
“A lightning watch was in effect from 3 p.m. through 9 p.m. Sunday evening,” he said. “Observed lightning advisories for storms within 10 miles and observed lightning warnings within 5 miles were issued as required, as well.”
Nixon said weather flight team members carefully assess Doppler weather radar, satellite data and lightning detection sensors continuously during periods of convective activity and potential.
“This process allows us to assess movement, intensity and frequency of activity thus facilitating a timely warning process,” he said.
Eady said lightning strikes on Robins’ airfield happen more often than people may think.
“It’s pretty much known that we are accustomed to weather watches and warnings and what actions to take when prompted,” he said. “In the airfield management world, our job takes it a step further. What we do after the weather event has occurred is just as important as the preparation for the weather event.
“This was a significant event for the airfield due to the fact that debris that was on Taxiways Hotel and Alpha, restricted aircraft movement until the airfield sweeper was able to sweep the area to ensure all debris was gone to prevent Foreign Object Damage to an aircraft engine,” Eady said. “At the end of the day, ensuring that crews have a safe airfield to depart from and land to safely at Robins is job one.”
Nixon said Robins AFB’s weather notices are among the tools the base uses to keep Air Force assets and workers safe.
“Safety is our number one priority,” he said. “Lightning is a proven killer and it is absolutely essential to provide early warning in order to ensure personal safety, safety of flight and facility security.”
The 78th OSS and 78th Civil Engineering Group workers are coordinating the repair of damage to the taxiway, Eady said.