Snow? What snow?

Six Inches of Snow, Not

Six Inches of Snow, Not

Maybe it is because I grew up in Toronto, where we could get several feet of snow in a winter, maybe it is because my mother made me put on my snowsuit and boots and walk to school. Maybe it was the nature of the times. Regardless, compared to today, I would like to think we as a society were hardier than we are now.  Dare I say we have become weather wimps?

On Tuesday, we had a forecast that predicted we would get between 5 and 8 inches of snow in the region. And the forecasters, as a group, were certain that we would get at least five inches. They said we could take it to the bank. Everyone would get at least this much snow. It would start around 8 AM and be heaviest by noon, tapering off by midnight. Reports around my office in Herndon at noon were saying there was as much as six inches on the ground, roads were slippery and people should stay home. In preparation for this, the Federal Government closed, schools closed, and people huddled together as if tanks were patrolling the streets looking for radicals.  Oh, and it was going to be cold. Single digit wind chills.

I remember a picture from the 1970s.  I might have been 7 or 8, it is hard to tell, and I am bundled up in my blue snowsuit.  The driveway in front of the house is clear and there are piles of snow more than five feet high behind me.  I remember digging tunnels in the snow because it was so high.  There are several of these pictures from different years.  I have strong memories of walking to school in the snow, cursing under my breath about those who could not be bothered to shovel their sidewalks as I trudged through them, snow up to my knees.  And yes, it was uphill, one way.  And I was not older than 13, because I went to a boarding school when I was 13. I walked to school, about a half a mile, through rain, snow, and heat.  Oh, and wind chill.

The morning after

The morning after

Today, Thursday, is the third weather related closure of the schools in Northern Virginia, with only a couple of exceptions. I supposed you could argue that the side streets are too slippery for the buses to safely negotiate. You could argue that it is too cold for the poor little children to stand waiting for that same school bus. I am not sure I believe either. Yes, it is cold. Officially it is supposed to be -2 before you add in the wind chill. I am not sure I believe that temperature as most of the outside thermometers were considerably above that and there is not much wind.  Most of the side streets are really not that bad, certainly negotiable by garbage trucks, and Priuses alike, even the hills, which the buses do not go down. So I am not particularly sure what the reason for closing the schools is. Perhaps it is as simple as people just not having the right clothes?

In 2014, I would have expected that the ability to get children to school, safely, and in most types of weather would have improved over my slogging up a hill in the snow. Clearly, it has not only not improved, but has gotten considerably worse. We bus our children from across the street to the school door (or drive them an equally short distance) and then bemoan the fact that they are overweight.  We complain about lousy traffic, yet fail to properly equip our cars for winter driving by making sure our windshield washer fluid is full and we have sunglasses at the ready for glare. Is it any wonder that when a real disaster strikes, people throw up their hands and demand the government help them? Especially when it is clear they cannot even handle a little snow.

“Winging It” is not an emergency plan

As much as I mock the generally inept Department of Homeland (In)security, their sub-agency, FEMA is quite often on the mark with their Ready.gov projects.  The newest push, during National Preparedness Month (that would be now, September), is suggesting you make an emergency plan with your kids.  And really, when was the last time you checked your emergency plan.  September 10, 2001?

Worrying about terrorism is not going to help. Instead you should worry about a local disaster, such as a gas tanker exploding in your neighbourhood (Gainesville, VA in July), or a propane tanker overturning near volatile oil lines (Sudley Manor Road in 2012). Snow storms, earthquakes and severe weather (Sandy, Katrina, Ivan, Floyd) are more likely to cause a disaster, and result in serious damage to your home than any random act of terrorism.

And yet, most people have not done much to prepare. And worse, as the echos of the last storm (in this case Sandy), fade, and the real pressures of day-to-day life take over, the desire and focus on preparation fades.  When was the last time you checked the water in your basement?  How about that canned food? Do you have any emergency cash? Updated your document cache with all those new forms? What about that new pet?  If you had to evacuate now, would you be able to? Would you know where to go? Could your family reunite? Where? How? When? Under what conditions?

If the answers to the above questions start with “…umm…” then you are not prepared. Take sometime this weekend and look at your kits, your plans, and ensure your tools are ready.  Because you might not get a second chance.

A Wintry Mix?

Snow on the trees

Snow on the trees

Early this month, Washington, DC was paralyzed by a monster snow storm. I think we got an inch of snow. Maybe. Now some to the west received considerably more, but most people got maybe an inch.  Schools were shuttered, the Federal Government preemptively closed and people rushed out to get milk, bread, and toilet paper.

The trees through the Arch

The trees through the Arch

Since then, there have been two wintery mix events. The first one dumped three to six inches on us.  Last night, we got another two inches.  Yes, two events, described as wintry mixes have delivered more snow than a predicted Snowmageddon.   Which begs the question…how do I get a job where I can be factually wrong, more often than I am right and still keep my job?

Enjoy the pictures.