Officials around here call them snow “emergencies”. The forecast calls for more than a dusting of the white stuff and the entire contingent of snow removal resources across the DC metro area is mobilized to respond. Residents are told to stay inside, stock up, and brace for the onslaught.
No other event short of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s shuts down the DC area like two or more inches of snow. Schools and government offices close, residents storm local supermarkets for supplies, and a fleet of more than 5,000 snow removal trucks hit local highways and byways. If and when the weather finally arrives, an eerie silence falls over the region. Are we going to make it out alive?
It’s not altogether clear to me why locals react the way they do. It’s not as if we don’t get regular snowfall. Probably the top five largest snow storms I’ve experienced (all upwards of 2-3 feet) took place around here, and I’m from Canada. Based on the myriad interviews TV stations have with people on the street, it seems a lot of the people living in the area are just like me – from colder, snowier climates and somewhat mystified by all the fuss.
There are practical reasons to stay at home during and immediately after a storm. The roads are slippery and road crews need to do their work. But snow days around here can last for more than 24 hours, long after the threat has passed. If slightly hazardous road conditions around here are a reason to stay home, then I’d recommend we all permanently call it quits. Which may be just the point. Driving in the DC area is so fraught with danger that any accidents occurring in the aftermath of a snowfall – and there will be plenty – will be blamed on officials not choosing the shut the city down.
In the end, snow days around here are less “emergencies” than a celebration of doing nothing. And other than snowbound parents, not a lot of people are complaining. In this hyper-extended part of the world, any government-sanctioned day to goof off is welcome respite. Sure, many of us can and do work from home. But unless you’ve got a deadline looming, many also take the time to follow the city’s lead and shut down.