Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 11:21 AM ET, 02/15/2010

Dealing with snow: Officials must do better

By Valerie Strauss

Today, days after the last flake fell, some schools are begging students and parents to come and help them dig out the sidewalks and the curbs.

And there are many streets still not safe to navigate with anything but a Humvee; my cousin lives in Bethesda and said a school bus could not maneuver down her road.

Yes it was a record snowfall, and yes, the greater Washington region is notoriously slow to recover from even a light dusting.

But this is ridiculous. School should be opening tomorrow across the area but it probably isn’t going to be safe for a lot of buses and cars to be out on the road--even without the fresh snow and rain and resultant slush we expect by morning.

Howard County Public Schools are already canceled for tomorrow and I’m betting other systems are going to wind up doing the same thing, or, at the very least, give people more time to get there. Rush hour is going to be a mess.

It has been made abundantly clear from various officials in our county and city governments that they are trying their hardest, pushing the limits of worker endurance and equipment capacity to clear the roads.

At this point, it’s not good enough. For school systems to have to ask people to help dig out today reveals poor planning on the part of everybody involved in snow removal and the business of getting back to business.

Some neighbors on our little block in the District hired a small private plow to dig out our street and alley when they got tired of waiting for a D.C. government plow. The plow driver was going around making money by digging out cars, $10 a pop. A bargain at twice the price.

There were a lot of independent plows making money on the side; how is that the local government wasn’t able to bring together every available plow in the city and put them to work in a systematic way?

What I hope doesn’t happen tomorrow is that officials ease up on their “safety first” rule just to get kids back in their classes. If the kids have to be home again, so be it.

Let’s get things cleaned up, and then let’s figure out how to plan better for next time. There will, of course, be a next time.

Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking

And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers,
please check out our new Higher Education page at
Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | February 15, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Willingham: In defense of measurement
Next: Senioritis: Minor affliction or serious disease?


I could not agree more! Late yesterday I received an e-mail from Fairfax County Braddock District Supervisor John Cook with the following:

"Tonight, your community needs you, and I am calling on you to volunteer TOMORROW to help with our snow emergency."

It goes on to say how everyone needs to work together to get the sidewalks and bus stops clear. Hate to sound like a party pooper, but good luck with that. I spent 2 hours yesterday hacking away at the ice tomb surrounding my mailbox and another 2 hours working on my downspouts in order to minimize the possibility of ice dams. Meanwhile, able-bodied teenagers are sitting around playing Wii.

I cannot wait to see what happens tomorrow when all of these high school students drive to school tomorrow and find that their parking spaces in neighborhood streets are buried under 4-6' of hard packed snow and ice.

Posted by: Ebola_22039 | February 15, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Part of the problem in Fairfax is that there is no law saying that you have to shovel the sidewalk in front of your house. Some of the HOAs have rules, but there is nothing across the board and you would be amazed at how many people have not touched their part yet.

Posted by: zeptattoo | February 15, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Talk about a nanny state! You do not need a law requiring snow shoveling any more than you do to require the use of seat belts. That aside, most of the sidewalks in my neighborhood WERE clear until the weekend when the VDOT crews with bucket loaders pushed piles of snow on top of them. My mailbox was not entombed Saturday morning, but it was on Sunday and that is pretty much representative of the nearby sidewalks.

Posted by: Ebola_22039 | February 15, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

ditto, Ebola_22039 - my sidewalk in the Glenmont area of Silver Spring was clear until last night, when the county sent front loaders to dump solid-pack ice six-feet deep and more on my sidewalk. They also created piles of snow at each corner of every intersection, so drivers can't see what's coming.

Clearly driving and pedestrian safety both take a backseat to the ability of commuters to speed through our residential neighborhood at 40 or 50 miles an hour.

Posted by: dc-native | February 15, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

SO my grandma calls me this morning and said the plows came, to her already plowed street, this morning and left snow around her car! So I get there and as I go down the street I see mountains of snow! When I get out of my car I see snow covered on the sidewalks and the next door neighbors driveway was blocked by mounds of snow left by the plows. I couldn't attempt to shovel the sidewalks because the plows left a wall of snow which would have taken 2 days to remove by myself. I meant to take pictures of it, but Mayor Fenty will hear from me!!!

Posted by: CedricCS | February 15, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again. The FEDS get 2 hour delay but DC gets none for Tuesday.

Posted by: mia_101mail | February 15, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

I will have to agree with mia. It is a shame that Fenty and Rhee could care less about the safety of their employees.

Posted by: JustThinking5 | February 15, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

It's not just the District. Many MoCo, MD streets have the same problem. And as of this afternoon, there were many unplowed school parking lots.

Posted by: a_m_b_hall | February 15, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company