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Finally, the Perfect Storm

I lay in bed around 5:30 this morning wondering if it had really snowed. The TV weather people said it would, but they seem to get it wrong as often as they get it right.

But something seemed different. The early morning light had a different quality as it shouldered its way between the blinds: brighter, reflected from a thousand different directions. There was a stillness to the air. What minimal traffic I could hear was muffled. And -- what's this? -- not a single traffic helicopter or airplane buzzed overhead.

When I finally padded to the window I beheld a glorious sight: a proper snowstorm. Pine boughs bent under the weight of snow. Yard furniture vanished under mantles of white. Flakes still fell from the sky, tiny crystalline soldiers intent on doing their job. It was a real Currier & Ives snow.

It's been ages since we've had such a perfect storm, one that so obviously demands we alter the rhythms of our life: Keep the kids home from school, think twice about going in to work, hike our way to the Metro rather than fire up the car.

And perfect timing: Plenty of advance warning. Falling overnight. For some, a two-day weekend turned into a three-day weekend.

With so many things to worry about these days -- the economy, the wars -- maybe this is a gift from the heavens, a reminder that some pleasures are as simple and priceless as gazing out the window.

By John Kelly  |  March 2, 2009; 8:01 AM ET
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How fun to see most people love the snow. I've decided that the excitement around snow days and closings are an important tradition in DC - we all work at such a frantic pace, but then, like a gift, we get to go play together in the snow. Northerners can keep their "we're tougher than you" attitude. Let's go sledding!

Posted by: mskidd | March 2, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm amused to see DC schools opening late, when the vast majority of area schools are closed. Could it be attributed to President Obama's questioning the last school closing? I think it can. I think it illustrates how little time the President spent in Washington while a Senator. Those of us who have lived in the area for some time understand the necessity of closing schools rather than invest in snow removal equipment rivaling that of his beloved Chicago. Why doesn't he get that? Now, because he said that, DC schools will remain open, and I certainly hope no one gets hurt because school buses are out when they should have remained parked.

Posted by: ryefieldt | March 2, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

It'd be nicer if the Federal Government out and out closed (which would mean that it wouldn't cost me a vacation day in order to stay home), but it's still pretty out even if I am viewing it from my office in my work clothes instead of from my kitchen in my jammies.

Posted by: | March 2, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

You guys really are weenies! The rest of the country gets more snow than that and there is hardly a mention. Then, when it hits DC or the East Coast---it's a snow emergency or a blizzrd that hits all the MSM's front pages.
Do you people live in a bubble?

Posted by: morningglory51 | March 2, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Well, it was just a typical day for me, although the virtually unplowed Prince William Parkway (headed towards Dumfries) didn't help the situation...and I arrived at my office about 40 minutes later than usual.

Still, traveling at 25 mph with the ABS kicking-in every now and then wasn't bad, and the falling snow had a surreal quality to it.

Now to continue putting in job applications since this is my last week....

Posted by: tommad1 | March 2, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

morning glory---- read the first comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: kdjsgreen | March 2, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

DC schools may have been 2 hours late today, but Sidwell Friends is closed. So Sasha and Malia still get a day off.

Posted by: nashpaul | March 2, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely agree with the first commenter - it's a lovely, wonderful thing - and am thrilled to see the rest of the folks reading love the "storm" (I'm still of the persuasion that says this is nuttin - but I love whatever we get). I live in a house of snow haters, and am just hoping my daughter grows up loving it!

Posted by: alisoncsmith | March 2, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The most dangerous part of my trek to work was the time I spent walking on wet Metro platforms which seem to react badly to winter boots. It was like walking on marble. What is so wrong with that surface that it has the characteristics of ice when wet?

Posted by: pirate1 | March 2, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse


DCPS tend to try to stay open so that the kids on Free/Reduced Breakfast/Lunch get fed.

Posted by: mason08 | March 2, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

What's your complaint? Is the MSM like the NYT and WaPO not supposed to report local news? It doesn't snow here much, so when it does, it's news.

Get a grip.

Posted by: mason08 | March 2, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

We had a beautiful snow down here in Southeast Texas in December, just like this one.
We had about 3 inches overnight.
It melted away quickly; by Noon, the temperature in Beaumont was well above freezing.
But it was delightful while it lasted.
The clearance problem is what will bedevil Washington D.C. for a while.
In February 1973, I enjoyed a similar snowfall in Washington.
I was so surprised; the whole city shut down.
Buses quit running; you couldn't find a taxi.
I walked 14 blocks from the Dept. of Transportation, where I had breakfast, to the Smithsonian, where I spent the day.
Our great City of Momuments was so beautiful while it lasted.
It did take some time for the D.C. snowfall to melt away.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | March 2, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"DCPS tend to try to stay open so that the kids on Free/Reduced Breakfast/Lunch get fed."

Perhaps, but about 1/3 of the teachers at my school have called in "sick" and a good number of students are absent as well. I don't know if Ms. Rhee takes any of this into consideration. Not a huge deal...except those of us who did come in have to cover classes for those who did not.

Our school also does not serve breakfast on delay days.

Personally, I think she is "proving a point" to stay tough. Its also testing week this week.

Posted by: brigid1 | March 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm an ex-pat living in Southern California, and I would sell a body part to be in that snow right now. One of my fondest memories as a child living in Loudoun was to go out at night as the snow was falling, stand under pine trees, and hear the snow touch the pine needles. Traffic was hushed. Lights were dimmed. The world was joyously beautiful for a few hours.

Thanks for the wonderful writing, Mr. Kelly!

Posted by: tmkelley | March 2, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

We had classes this morning (I'm in Baltimore).

Apparently, pre-meds can never catch a break. Hate my school.

Posted by: megantron | March 2, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Journalists! Please, PLEASE stop using that phrase "A Perfect Storm"! Please, I beg you.

BTW, it is 75 and sunny here in San Diego. As I left for work this morning my yard was filled with birds building nests all around. I'm expecting the Oriole families will return soon and build their nests in my banana tree.

Posted by: martiniano | March 2, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Not a good day for our backyard birds -- much more bickering and back-biting (literally) than usual as everyone crowded onto the feeders. Even the juncos, who are ground-gleaners, were trying to watch the other birds and figure out the feeders. I saw one pecking at the clear plastic tube, and another trying to hover and get suet from the upside-down woodpecker feeder.

Posted by: Epigon | March 2, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Not quite as much snow in my corner of the Carolinas as you folks got, but it was beautiful and I've enjoyed it. Alas, it's melting fast...

Posted by: slyness | March 2, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I agree. The federal government is a party pooper. We haven't had a day off since 2003 (for a hurricane) so one little snow day wouldn't hurt!

Posted by: ginniemae | March 2, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I'll second tmkelly's sentiments! I'm stuck here in the rainy S.F. Bay Area, which for some reason is very good at being cold and damp enough to simulate the bad parts of wet winter weather, but never cold enough to actually snow! I feel robbed every winter I spend here, it's as if November lasts 3 months and then leads into a 2 1/2 month long March. I treasure the unplanned shutdowns and impromptu fun to be had on DC snow days, and if I ever have kids, I would seriously have to consider moving to an area that has a proper winter so that they could experience it. Apparently the rest of the northeast doesn't share our traditions of treating snow as a mix of "Yay, free day off!" and "ohmyGodit'ssnowingwehavetoobuybreadandmilkNow!" I read elsewhere that the last time NYC public schools called the day for snow was some time in 2004! Criminal, I say!

Posted by: jax75420 | March 2, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

We have the worst traffic in the nation in the Washington area. If everyone got out and went to work and school with the roads like this (or even 1 percent less than perfect) it would take about eight hours for everyone to get where they're going. We don't have three people in town like you're used to where you get the snow...

"You guys really are weenies! The rest of the country gets more snow than that and there is hardly a mention. Then, when it hits DC or the East Coast---it's a snow emergency or a blizzrd that hits all the MSM's front pages.
Do you people live in a bubble?

Posted by: ssd1 | March 2, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse


yes, but what other area of the country has this great a population density over such a long stretch? from dc to boston is a megalopolis and when you're talking that number of people, businesses and that level of density, even just a mid-sized weather event gets pretty hairy.

Posted by: freckleface | March 2, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm adding to the (snow) cheering section-- to reiterate, a) it doesn't make economic sense to buy/maintain/staff hundreds of plows for a once in a while snow. But more importantly, b) it makes for a great day to play with the kids and hang out with neighbors, and vice versa.

Posted by: zekepeterz | March 2, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Ryefieldt, It was actually his daughters' school (Sidwell Friends) that closed last month, not DCPS. Also, most students don't get to ride on school buses since they're reserved for special needs children. They have to get to school on their own.

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | March 2, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful to behold, until I was holding a snow shovel.

Posted by: MikeM_inColumbia | March 2, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

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