Region of Wimps

An inch of snow shouldn't cause panic. But it does in the DC area.

The way the DC area reacts to snow is just ridiculous.

And I was born in DC and grew up in Rockville, so this isn’t one of those rants that people from Buffalo or Minneapolis go on about our region.

My memory goes back to the blizzard of 1966, where I got stuck in a snow drift in the backyard. Or 1979, when I lost a week of my senior year of high school to the George Washington Birthday storm. And of course, the three storms we got in the winter of 2009-10. I had really hoped those three storms would remind us of what real snow is, and we wouldn’t overreact to piddly little snowfalls.

But this winter has proved that we are just genetically incapable as a region not to go full panic at the mention of snow. Last week, we had school closures for two separate one-inch snowfalls. It is not necessary, it is not about safety, it is just pathetic. It sends a message to children that snow cannot be dealt with, the only answer is to close and run away. It presumes that there is a parent patiently waiting at home at all times for their child to return, instead of acknowledging that we live in an era (and have for a while) of two working parents or single parent households. So we get the quotes that in “an abundance of caution” schools need to close. If we always wanted to show an abundance of caution, we would never put children in school buses or have teens driving or have teachers driving long distances to get to work.

When a serious storm comes or when ice is involved, as it was today, it’s a different matter. But when we have a snow advisory for less than a few inches of snow, life should just go on.

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jag January 28, 2013 at 07:30 PM
I didn't notice anyone panicking. I find the school delays to be pretty absurd, but at the same time it's probably more about alleviating traffic delays more than anything. We aren't a region with infrastructure capable of pretreating or sanding all roads. I've spent time in Buffalo - a foot of snow and everything, including residential roads were plowed before people even work up. There's a difference, and it has little to do with sissy-ness.
walt January 28, 2013 at 09:17 PM
I think everyone in this region is a snow sissy and the school start delay today was absurd. People either are lazy and just itching for excuses to stay home from work or are really over the top when it comes to precautions.
Temperance Blalock January 28, 2013 at 11:42 PM
The reason that this area cannot handle snow is not because people here are wimps or lazy or anything like that. It's because our area is so congested and overcrowded that gridlocked with traffic that any delay in traffic (such as slowdown due to adverse driving conditions) has an enormous ripple affect that spreads out to affect hundreds of thousands of people. Thus, the possibility of that sort of event must be planned and accounted for.
tfm January 29, 2013 at 02:59 PM
I agree with those who comment on it being about congestion delays rather than wimpiness. I grew up in deep snow country where people did get on with business as usual with light snowfall, but the population density was much less than here. Here, even one accident paralyzes things for hours - and there will always be more than one serious collision of some sort. Too many people end up being trapped in their vehicles, stuck on delayed metro trains, getting into work late, getting back home at midnight if at all while their family life is in disarray, and being frazzled, hungry, and exhausted the next day . I've experienced all of those things on several occasions while cursing the decision-makers living close to work who can easily make it to the office but have not okayed telecommuting or something similar for the rest of us. Alternative work arrangements or approval of unrequested leave make for a much more sensible approach to dealing with these trying circumstances.
Jeff Hawkins January 29, 2013 at 03:45 PM
It's NOT wimpiness! It's congestion as previous posters have mentioned. I also was born in D.C. and grew up in Rockville as the author did.....I'm still here. There were far less roads to plow in the 1960's. You didn't have steady march of commuters coming from neighboring counties each morning for work such as Frederick County. Now when you get a "local" weather report, it stretches to West Virginia....it didn't used to be like that. In addition, geographically we can have vastly different weather, it can be snowing in Damascus and raining in Takoma Park. Lastly the author states "it's not about safety" and leaves it at that? What "IS" it about then? P.S. I remember the 1966 storm well....it shut things down for days.
Ian Brett Cooper January 29, 2013 at 04:03 PM
I must admit to sharing some of David Heyman's feelings on this issue. While it's not all about a region of wimps, there is an element of wimpyness to it. My daughter and I cycle - CYCLE, not drive - 4 miles to and from her school (I cycle 8 miles a day) every weekday, rain or shine, blizzard or heatwave, winter or summer. I was looking forward to cycling in the snow last week, but was frustrated by the late openings of the school. As a result, when the temperatures dropped later in the week and some roads still had not been salted, we ended up cycling on ice, which is far more slippery. My daughter, who had not experienced cycling on snow (which allows an easier way to improve balance) had to learn these skills on ice. Fortunately, she did not fall and she handled it fine, but I feel it would have been better for her to learn in snow. In our case, the county's decisions made our commute more dangerous rather than less so. Because we're being mollycoddled by the county, we are less prepared and less used to bad weather conditions when they appear. Also, because the county fails to salt minor roads, government leaves us with even worse conditions. An inch or two of snow should not be an emergency. If my 9 year-old daughter and I can cycle 4-8 miles a day to school and back in snow and ice, everyone who drives air conditioned cars should be able to do the same. We live in the USA, which was founded on the pioneer spirit - an inch of snow shouldn't even make us blink.
Joe Thomas January 29, 2013 at 11:17 PM
It has nothing to do with "more roads to plow". This year there have not been any roads to plow. The biggest accumulation was one inch and it didn't need to be plowed. School officials are afraid of their own shadow and are terrified that parents will complain if school is held. Far better to call of school or have an early dismissal 4 hours before the first flake fell. Totally ridiculous. Someone needs to grow a couple and stand up and say that there is going to be a new policy and kids need to be in school buildings. If they can flock to the mall or to the movies they can darned sure go to a school building.
Wick January 30, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Yeah, yeah, we all walked uphill both ways to school. Y'all are also skipping the public safety issue. In this huge, expensive metropolitan area emergency personnel travel long distances to work (cops, nurses, firemen, etc). It is important in a community where many jobs are "essential" (i.e. lots of gov't jobs) to not collapse the infrastructure with buses full of 6 year olds and other commuters. Let the kids watch Spongebob and eat their fruit loops for two hours while the county clears the roads and essential workers get to their posts.
David Bross January 30, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Three cheers to David H. and his commentary on Snow Wimpiness! The DC region has gotten far worse in how it copes/doesn't cope with snow.
Ian Brett Cooper January 30, 2013 at 07:22 PM
I'm not skipping the public safety issue - like I said, "the county's decisions made our commute more dangerous rather than less so. Because we're being mollycoddled by the county, we are less prepared and less used to bad weather conditions when they appear." I don't know why they can't clear the roads as soon as it begins to snow, like they do in places that get more snow. Where I lived north of Boston, roads were always cleared unless there was a major snowfall (meaning it was measured in feet, not inches)
Wick January 31, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Three dead and 20 injured in a Detroit area pileup caused by a snow squall (clipper - less than 2 inches). Fifty car pileup in Indianapolis today too. In the blizzard of '66 there were 59 million registered vehicles in the US. Today it is 259 million. Wimps rule.
Ian Brett Cooper February 01, 2013 at 06:18 PM
People die on bright sunny days too due to glare. Transportation has an element of risk.
Online addict February 01, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Baed on your "My daughter and I" story, I wonder wny you don't home school your child. You would no longer need to blame county services for not accommodating your schedule. School and government planning must take into account the myriad schedules of teachers, bus drivers, plow drivers, etc. The two hour delay for schools, frees up the road for commuters and allows a little extra space for the plows. As to the wimpiness factor, please realize the vast array of residents come from a wide range of environments. On our roads are diplomats from over 150 different countries, not to mention folks from Hawaii to Minnesota, to the flat lands of Kansas and those from sunny Florida. Assuming the issue on the roads is caused by locals is quite a narrow-minded view.
Online addict February 01, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Hey Joe, think you could reconsider your placement of anger. Do you know where the teachers in this area have to come from to teach in our country? Let me tell, very few can afford locations anywhere near the schools. And how about those "overpaid" bus drivers? Schools are making difficult calls and they have "grown a pair" and made wise decisions. And then they have to listen to bellyachers and whiners who can't deal with the inconvenience.
Online addict February 01, 2013 at 06:56 PM
And for those from winter climates, the Washington area sits on a freeze\melt weather map. Unlike Boston, Detroit, Minnesota, where when it snows the temperatures stay in the teens and lower for weeks at a time. Here it snows and the temps go into the 50s during the day and back to freezing at night. Much more difficult conditions to clean up. Those areas also have much more equipment available to treat roads and remove snow. It is not cost effective for us to invest in equipment that would not get as much use. Enjoy the free time, stay off the roads for two hours, read a book, spend time with your kids.
Craig February 13, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Great article. Great points. Nobody wimps out like Washington DC and MoCo. Nobody quits faster, ducks "toughness" sooner or avoids a little pain. Think I am kidding? Name ONE issue in local society and government where the government has taken on truly tough, structural reforms. Where it tries to inform citizens but not coddle. A shortfall in MoCo's budget? Just tax some more. Never examine why or where the money is spent. Baltimore is going bankrupt and their mayor finally, finally has the audacity to propose a move to a 401K pension. AMAZING. The snow issue is a micro-cosm of our politicians and local community. Everyone whines. Everyone "rationalizes" or comes up with reasons for NOT doing something. Very few are willing to suck it up, go to work and get 'er done.


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