I grew up in Virginia, but I’m a Michigander by nature – I’m down to a flannel in 30-degree weather, don’t worry about a little water here and there, and can drive confidently in heavy snow. I rarely get cold. I just figure it’s all the cost of doing business in areas where you get the white stuff. And my history has born out my resistance to the elements.
In early January of 1996, a massive snowstorm hit the DC area, enough that the Chevy lumina I was driving at the time couldn’t clear the snow level to get out of my neighborhood and carry me back to Michigan State. I was late for classes, but consoled myself with the thought that we’d survived the worst the region could throw at us in terms of weather.
In 1997, I drove the teetery team van, hauling a two-ton trailer with racing eights, down the Interstate 75 through West Virginia. There were already six inches of snow on the freeway, and it was still falling so thickly that my visibility was about 20 meters (if that). I fixed onto the brake lights of the semi in front of me and white-knuckled three hours through the blizzardy night.
When I was at law school, December of 1999 saw a wicked ice storm come up the coast. It knocked out the power everywhere within 100 miles, and I had only a quarter tank of gas, so was unable to get back to Northern Virginia for Christmas – all the gas stations were unable to pump without electricity. I bunkered down in my heat-less Williamsburg apartment and weathered it.
So it’s with some disdain that I observe the panic around me every time it snows in DC. Sure, the power might go out, and that sucks. But the run on toilet paper always makes me curious, because if you don’t have enough on hand for two or three days, I think your snowday diet might be a matter more worthy of focus than even the heat or plumbing. It snows, it gets shoveled, life goes on.
That’s until these last two storms. I figured we had a pretty solid plan in place – just like the snowstorm in mid-December, I went into the city and got snowed in with Alison for the first wave, then after a day of doing our own things, she came out to Arlington and got snowed in with me for the next couple of days. We had a ready supply of frozen TGI Friday’s products and wine (and toilet paper), logs for her fireplace, reading material and games. It went pretty well. We were apparently among the intrepid few who didn’t completely lose their minds in what turned out to be nearly 40 inches of snow in less than a week.
This storm was a little different, though, and I’ve come to realize I mildly resent the general “get over it” attitude from other regions of the country. Granted, the terms “stormageddon” and “snowpocalypse” have been a little overused – had anything about the storm really been apolcalyptic, Pat Robertson would have come on Sunday morning and blamed it all on gay people. But to understand the real impact of a thing, you have to compare it to what is normal, not what you’ve personally survived. We don’t have a fleet of snowplows in the DC area; people don’t keep snow tires in their garage and chains in their trunk; our infrastructure is not built to withstand tons of snow sitting on roofs and power lines. They were reporting that the District is more than a week behind on trash removal and there is a noticeable stink, because the guys who empty the dumpsters are the same ones who drive the plows … “you can have one or the other,” said the Head Trash-Snow-Cook-and-Bottle-Washer man. “For the past week, we’ve had to concentrate on the snow.”
We got our asses kicked, and to claim anything else really ignores the reality of the situation.
As I puttered along at my work yesterday, the clomping of a guy who could finally get up on my roof and clear snow brought home to me the enormity of what the region has gone through. It isn’t quite over, either, because nothing has melted yet. Sometime in the next week or so, the 20 inches of snow that are still on the ground are going to become soup. I’m still going to be glad of my all-wheel drive, and I will probably continue to need to stop here and there to help rescue other motorists.
My point? It’s getting old. In three weeks, we’ll be on a private island off the west coast of Florida and hopefully the long winter of our discontent will over – until next year.