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Posted at 5:00 PM ET, 01/20/2009

Standing, Watching, Waiting, and Freezing

By Jason Samenow

* Pomp, Circumstance & Chill: Full Forecast | Many Treated for Hypothermia *

In anticipation of the inauguration ceremony, spectators on the Mall stand, watch, wait, and freeze around sunrise this morning. By Jason Samenow.

So I ventured to the Mall at 6 a.m. this morning - knowing full well what to expect having been forecasting cold today for the past two weeks.

Layers of clothing? Check.

Thick socks? Check.

Warm coat, hat, gloves, scarf? Check.

Was it still cold? Check. Check. Check.

I learned the hard way that no matter how much you bundle up, it's nearly impossible to stay warm at an outdoor event when you primarily stand, watch, and wait. So I did what could to stay warm: jogged in place, roamed around the crowds, purchased some hand warmers to insert in my gloves and, at last, left early.

I was among the thousands who left the ceremony prior to the Benediction. But others didn't even last that long.

From Post reporter Matt Zapotosky:

Lannis and Gwen Thomas and Monica and Dana Pittman came all the way from St. Petersburg, Fl., by way of charter bus, then stood in the crowds at the mall for nearly 4 hours. But just after 11 a.m., the freezing temps drove the Floridians back to a shuttle bus. As they trudged back to their charter bus in the RFK parking lot, they were resigned to miss the inauguration entirely.

"It was just too cold, just too cold for us," Gwen Thomas said. "It should have been in a closed area somewhere."

While an inconvenience and/or comfort issue for many, the cold has contributed to serious health issues for some. About 143 calls for service have come into the D.C. Fire and there have been scores of hospital admissions according to the Inauguration Watch blog.

On the other hand, some people were able to shake off the cold. As Twitter poster hidefJohn wrote: " It was so damn cold but SO worth it!" Search "DC Cold" on Twitter for more reactions to the cold...

The cold will only get worse this evening, so take extra care to prepare for the elements. Limit your time in the cold, and if you have to be out for long periods of time, keep your body moving...

Back in from the cold? Tell us about your experiences. How did you stay warm, or are you still thawing out?

By Jason Samenow  | January 20, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Inauguration, Inauguration Features  | Tags:  inauguration weather  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Inauguration Update: Pomp, Circumstance & Chill
Next: Forecast: Late-Week Warm-up Will be Brief


I was plently comfortable sitting on my couch. Had on sweat pants & shirt, didn't notice the cold at all. Cold is only a state of mind.

Posted by: VaTechBob | January 20, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

It was, indeed, very very very very cold out there. Replaying Sunday's concert was a good idea to get everybody dancing and generating some heat.

I wonder what temperature it was for those of us standing with all those people. Anybody have an idea of how all of those bodies affect ambient temperature? Or is it just joy and adrenaline that keep you feeling warmer than you are?

Posted by: LaurainNWDC | January 20, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

My family in NC received 6 inches of snow today and here we are sitting in a snow drought! Snow to the North of us and snow to the South of us! I blame Global Warming. Hopefully President Obama can "Change" our winter weather here...

Posted by: CarolinaMike | January 20, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Situation for next week still looks promising but the fly in the ointment seems to be that much below temperatures retreat to north of D.C., carrying the threat of a meltdown into more plain ol' rain. In addition, we seem to be caught in the "D.C. Dry Slot" once more, as pointed out above by CarolinaMike.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 20, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

You forgot something ...

Another missed clipper? Check.

Sterling canceling winter weather advisory seven hours early? Check.

Another 8-page Sterling discussion that boils down to partly cloudy in D.C? Check.

Local media hysteria over nothing, again? Check.

D.C. the worst place on the planet for snow, including the central Amazon rainforest and the interior Sahara? Check.

A billion eternities of no snow ever in D.C. in wintertime and hot, humid, the rare thunderstorm, and the smell of sewage in the city in summertime? Check.

Our climate sucks.

Posted by: RegulusArcturus | January 20, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

well my inaugural day/pre inaugural night was very cold as well. i went down to the mall with friends at 12am and we layed out our blankets and covered about 40 square feet. we were right in the frow as awesome. but BOY WAS IT COLD. I was wearing 8 layers on my upper body including 2 fleeces and an extremely warm outer jacket, and 4 layers on my legs, including 2 layers of long underwear and had 2pairs of socks. we huddled together on the ground for warmth and tried to cover ourselves with our blankets and keep warm. but it was still SOOO COLD. We did last all the way through the day and myy trip home to NWDC *only* took me 3 hours because of the stupidity of the metro closures. I got 25 minutes of sleep last night, laayed in the freezing cold fr 10 hours and probably walked 15 miles, but it was all worth it. it was an amazing experience and I wouldn't have given it up for anything.

Posted by: NWDCJesse | January 20, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Left the house at 4:30 am with roommate, parked at Potomac Yard shopping center, walked all the way to the Mall. It only took two hours, so it's sounding if you weren't coming from too far out, that alternative worked better than Metro. After that (i.e., standing still) my hands got so cold - and I followed Jason's checklist - that I had to wrap my arms around myself inside my coat before my hands even THOUGHT about thawing out. Had to go inside a museum at one point because was convinced my toes had gotten frostbite (and was proved wrong within 15 minutes.) But that was enough to get me through - and I took a nice hot bath when I got home. :)

Able to say that I was there when President Obama was sworn in? No comparison. Totally worth it dispite the cold.

Posted by: MKoehl | January 20, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

I was working the mall all day on Mon and Tues...and even though it seemed like folks were not prepared, EMS is reporting only about 400 hundred or so folks treated for exposure and other ailments and only 31 were taken to hospitals. If there were 2 million folks out there then that was actually a pretty good result. We (the Red Cross)posted a quick video of what you want to wear in cold weather that you will be experiencing for 6 or more hours...go to - what I describe worked - I was warm from 6am to 6pm each day out there in 30 degree weather and chills in the teens...

Posted by: DullesARC | January 21, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

They came all the way from Florida and then left after 11am?! It started at 11am! I totally understand that it was quite cold, even if you're used to it, but man, leaving less than an hour before the oath after the sunk cost of four hours in line and a bus from Florida?! They'll no doubt regret that.

Posted by: dcwarren | January 21, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Good question, LaurainNWDC. It did seem a lot warmer in the midst of the crowd. The wind seemed to be blocked and it felt like 35 or 40 degrees. You could feel the difference on the walk back as soon as you got onto a less densely packed street.

Posted by: dcwarren | January 21, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

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