There's no panic like snow panic

D.C.'s reaction to the historic snow storm was warranted, after all

A survey of the comments posted to the story I wrote on Friday, Feb. 5, shows that my remarks about my fellow Washingtonians' snow panic may have been a bit harsh, given the historic proportions of the Feb. 5-6 blizzard. Let me clarify what prompted me to write about Washington, D.C.'s reputation as the snow panic capital of the world.

It was Friday morning, Feb. 5, and a few tiny snowflakes were flying. I went to the local grocery store, about a mile from the District line in Bethesda, Md. I was in search of some Velveeta to melt down with a little salsa to make nachos. How can you have a Super Bowl without molten processed cheese product to dunk your tortilla chips in? It would be un-American.

To my dismay, the cheese aisle was stripped barren. There was not a box of Velveeta in sight. There wasn't even a box of off-brand generic Velveeta. All that was left were a few packages of low-fat mozzerella string cheese. Like anybody was going to buy those in a blizzard.

So there I was, staring down the thought of a Super Bowl with no Velveeta. Not only that, but my beloved hometown football team wasn't going to be in the Super Bowl yet again. And here I was, stuck in a grocery store queue that went back to the seafood section. Dark thought built upon dark thought, and before I knew it, I was penning a blog about the city's snow panic. The blog was posted on that afternoon, when the snow had just started to stick.

By the next day, the city was buried under one of its biggest snowfalls ever, and all that grocery store panic seemed warranted. The ramifications of this storm, which dumped almost three feet of snow in some suburbs, will be felt for a long time. Metrorail service is curtailed, and without that life-giving artery through the city, it's going to be difficult for a lot of us to get to work. Writes one commenter:

"... the subway is serving only a few stations, Metrobus isn't running at all, MARC train service is stopped due to fallen trees, tens of thousands have no power (I write this on battery power myself), and we only have enough plows to clear the streets after days and days of round-the-clock work. Closing today is only common sense."

So what seemed like light-hearted teasing of my fellow citizens on Friday became inappropriate about 24 hours later, when half the city was freezing in the dark. One commenter wrote that "the timing of your article seems to be off by quite a bit since we are close to an all-time record for snowfall in a year." Patrick in Springfield (I'm guessing that's Virginia) wrote: "I think when the snowstorm rivals anything in the past 100 or so years, DC residents are entitled to a little panic. I have snow piled up over my head in my front yard, and I'm 6' tall."

But the city's snow panic actually was a factor in one ex-Washingtonian's move to another region. Jake from Texas said a nine-hour trip from the Pentagon to his home in Gaithersburg, Md., during a 1983 snowstorm made him decide to move to Houston. "Seen a few flakes in Houston, but they are of the human race," he writes.

I also got a few direct messages from hockey fans, who said, in essence, "Whaddya mean DC doesn't have a championship team?" To which I can only respond, "Go Caps!" I know better than to mess with hockey fans. No Stanley Cup yet, but the Capitals certainly look chamipionship-caliber these days.

Allen Arthur from D.C. offered another reason for snow panic: It's because "people don't want to get stuck at the office with all those 'funny' and 'sometimes annoying' people. They would rather be at home hovering in the dark with their family, which are also a mix of funny and annoying, but at least you've got beers in the fridge!"

Well said, Allen, and have a cold one for me. And with another foot of snow in this week's forecast, it will be cold indeed.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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