Can you stand a bit more complaining about the weather?
A friend in Fairfax County points out that between Christmas break, Martin Luther King Day, and snow days, kids in Fairfax County public schools have attended 22 days of school in the last 39 weekdays. Schools are closed entirely today because of snow that fell Tuesday. As noted in a Morning Jolt earlier this week, the Washington region takes risk-averse decision-making to new heights.
Toughen Up, Beltway
By 11 p.m. Monday night, most of the school districts in the Washington, D.C., area had announced they were closed in anticipation of an approaching “Alberta Clipper” snowstorm.
Tuesday morning, the federal Office of Personnel Management announced that federal-government offices in the D.C. region would be closed. Emergency employees and telework-ready employees were expected to work.
The first snowflakes didn’t fall until about 11 a.m. At 1 p.m., most of the major roadways remained clear, with the salt trucks having had plenty of time to prepare the roads. The Clipper did amount to a genuine snowstorm by the standards of the mid-Atlantic region, dumping three to seven inches.
My suspicion is that the Washington, D.C., area is a lot more capable of toughing its way through a few inches of snow. We would like to try, but nervous-Nelly school administrators won’t let us. Either that, or those administrators are terrified of nervous-Nelly parents.
When I was a kid they waited for snow to accumulate before they called snow days. Then we had to walk home in it barefoot with bags of rocks.
The AP wrote that the U.S. is becoming a nation of “weather wimps,” attributing it to . . . global warming, contending that the warmer globe means we’re less used to cold weather, so we have a harder time coping with it. That article featured a Rutgers University climate scientist positing that melting Arctic sea ice is generating “more weirdness” in our weather. That darn indecipherable, precise scientific jargon!
But this isn’t really about the actual temperatures or precipitation; it’s about how we react to them. Winter’s always going to be cold, ranging from pretty cold to bitterly cold. Some years we won’t get much snow, some years we’ll get a blizzard or two. What’s stupefying is how this region always seems shocked by it.
Washington, D.C.,’s snow accumulation this year, now including Tuesday’s Alberta Clipper is . . . 7.2 inches. Yuppie Acres, Northern Virginia has already had five snow days and two delayed openings. The annual usual total snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area is . . . 5.4 inches. So we’re getting a bit more snow than usual, but not much.
(You can check out snowfall totals and averages for 57 cities here.)
The Washington Post’s Petra Dvorak spoke for exasperated parents a few weeks ago when there was talk that some school districts would close school because of the “Polar Vortex.” No actual precipitation, snow, sleet, or ice, just a blast of really cold air.
A cold day has no resemblance to the glory of an actual snow day — where the rinse-and-repeat cycle of getting all the snow pants, hats, mittens on, then going outside to play, then fighting and screaming because snow went down someone’s back and someone else got smacked with an iceball, then going home for hot chocolate — makes the day feel Sysiphean, but makes it go by faster.
A bitterly cold day?
Let’s crack an egg on the sidewalk and watch it freeze? Test that “Christmas Story” tongue scene?
Nah. This is our big chance to show the rest of the country that flintiness that President Obama longed for when he moved here from Chicago and learned his daughters’ school had closed because of a dusting of snow.
It’s time for the folks of Our Town to show the government how to keep functioning despite a deep freeze, how to hunker down, wear an extra layer and get it done.
Please? For the sake of parents?
. . . Human beings are capable of walking, driving, and functioning in snow; otherwise places like Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Minneapolis (and Canada) would be abandoned throughout winter. But not only does Washington, D.C., fail to do that . . . it seems afraid to even try.