Snowquester Fizzles, But We're Humbled Anyway | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Snowquester Fizzles, But We're Humbled Anyway

Play associated audio

Snowquester fizzled.

Wednesday was more or less canceled this week in official Washington, D.C. An enormous winter storm bore down on the region, threatening ice, a foot of snow in the city (more in the suburbs), and wind and misery throughout the region.

Most of the federal government was closed. I know, I know. How could they tell? Local governments and schools, too. Flights were canceled, planes diverted, and throngs descended on grocery stores, picking the shelves clean of bread, milk and toilet tissue.

North Korea doesn't need to threaten Washington, D.C., with a nuclear attack — just some snow.

Big fat snowflakes fell, but mostly fizzled on the ground. While there was pelting rain and a stiff wind, in the end there was just enough snow most places to maybe make a Slurpee.

With wincing cuts being made to government services, it would seem to be a bad time for federal agencies to look too timid to come to work in just a teensy-widdle-bit of snow. The Washington Post asked, "Did they pull the plug too early?"

As a Chicagoan, I am always tempted to ridicule the wary way in which Washingtonians shut schools and agencies when snow is simply in the forecast. But the area has not had a major snow for two years, and most municipalities don't have the equipment on hand to dig out of one. With radar and satellite imagery so detailed and persuasive, you might see why officials would close down before a snow, to avoid stranding and endangering people, especially schoolchildren.

Jeffrey Platenberg, who heads school transportation in Fairfax County, Va., said that he didn't want a lot of teenage drivers slipping and sliding on the roads to get to school, or see chock-full school buses spin their wheels.

But if schools close down, what do working parents do — park their children at Starbucks? Modern technology makes it possible for people with desk jobs of one kind or another to work electronically for a day or two. Government workers were cooped up in their homes with frisky kids in a storm, not off getting seaweed pedicures.

A spokesman for D.C.'s Mayor Vincent Gray told The Washington Post, "You can't really blame government officials for using the data the scientists gave them." And in a way, the snow forecasts falling so flat is a sound reminder, during a time of national debate, that experts can be wrong. As a former president of Harvard, Lawrence Lowell, once warned, there's a Harvard man — or scientist, economist and meteorologist — on the wrong side of every question.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

New Technology Immerses Audiences At Sundance Film Festival

From flying like a bird to walking through a refugee camp in Syria, virtual reality has enabled journalists, filmmakers and artists to immerse their audience in their stories like never before.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: Girl Scout Cookie Coffeemate

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try Girl Scout Cookies in a new form. Coffeemate has somehow blended them into nondairy creamer, so you can start your day the disturbing way.
WAMU 88.5

Court Approves McDonnell's Request To Remain Free During Appeal

A federal appeals court is approving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's request to remain free while he appeals his corruption convictions.
NPR

Just Plane Sad: A Show Of Support For SkyMall

News last week that SkyMall's parent company has filed for bankruptcy protection inspired an outpouring of odes to the kitschy in-flight catalog.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.