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Posted at 9:18 PM ET, 01/26/2011

Frustrated by snow response, Twitter unloads on Gray

By Mike DeBonis

The snow is still falling, but Twitter is starting to render its verdict on Mayor Vincent Gray's response to the storm. It isn't good.

A sampling:

From @feldmike: "Mayor Gray's first big test. Not looking good so far. Downtown DC is a parking lot. Haven't seen a single plow. #epicfail"

From @katanders: "I guess the city has decided to wait to send out the snow plows until after this is over. That's different. Mayor Gray???"

And from ABC News reporter Jake Tapper, to his 86,000 followers: "Dear Mayor Gray, it's been snowing for hours and I haven't seen one snowplow. You there?" and "@CoryBooker how do we draft you to be Mayor of DC? How about just during snowstorms? Can you call Mayor Gray and offer some tips?" Both have been re-tweeted hundreds of times.

Fairly or unfairly, never is a big-city mayor under such a microscope as during a major snowfall. Gray has the additional burden of following Adrian Fenty, who made efficient delivery of city services the cornerstone of his administration. And those Fenty voters out there are clearly not giving Gray the benefit of the doubt.

How fair is the early assessment? Depends on your expectations, considering that the Post's Capital Weather Gang has called this a "major, potentially remarkable thump of snow," wet and heavy stuff that's come down at a "furious pace."

Millicent West, head of the city's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said tonight that the quick accumulation of snow was compounded by wind and quick drop in temperature, which turned streets to sheets of ice.

"You almost can't prepare for what we have here," she said, adding that streets were fully pre-treated with salt and brine.

This reporter's take: There wasn't much to be done about the evening rush. By drive time, the snow was coming down too hard and too fast for plows to keep up, and roadways clogged with traffic prevented plows from getting through. Gray might have called an early closure to District offices -- the federal government sent its employees home two hours early -- but Gray only closed libraries and rec centers early and left it up to managers whether to send folks home early.

The overnight will tell the tale, especially if the snow stops before midnight. Will the plows be able to have major arteries flowing for the morning rush? If he can do that, the clamor should subside. If not, well, let the Michael Bloomberg talk begin.

Gray appears to have shared one questionable decision with the recently snow-embattled New York mayor -- he has not declared a snow emergency in the city. As in New York, such a declaration would make it illegal to park on certain arterial roadways, making it easier for plows to do their job.

West explained that a snow emergency is called when there is an immediate likelihood of more than six inches of accumulation. National Weather Service forecasts issued through the day, she said, offered a range between three and eight inches, and no emergency call was made.

The current difficulty, West said, is getting plows through streets where cars, trucks and buses are stuck in the roadways -- in some cases, abandoned by their drivers. But West said forecasts indicate the stop should stop around 11, and crews will work through the night to clear obstructions and get the plows through.

"We anticipate being able to operate almost normally by the morning," she said.

The other part of the snow-response equation is communications. Residents are likely to grant some forbearance in the case of an unusually heavy snowfall, but they have to be convinced that the government is doing everything it can.

Gray had one news conference earlier in the day at a city salt dome. During last winter's snow storms, Fenty held several press conferences a day, moving them around the city. In what in likely a relief to parents and teachers, the D.C. Public Schools have already announced they will be opening two hours late tomorrow.

Strangely, while the Gray campaign and transition had a strong Twitter presence, his administration (like Fenty's) has yet to establish a central Twitter account. They might want to get on that soon.

By Mike DeBonis  | January 26, 2011; 9:18 PM ET
Categories:  The District, Vincent Orange  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Jan. 27, 2011

Comments

"Efficient delivery of city services" may have been a cornerstone of the Fenty administration, but I don't think Fenty is remembered for being really good with snow, fairly or not, because his last winter was so bad.

Posted by: KCinDC1 | January 26, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

'Twas rather surprising that the Mayor didn't shut down city agencies at all. Basically if you left by 3, you made it home OK, after that you got screwed-- 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 hours to go a few miles.

Posted by: pennquaker | January 26, 2011 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow. If Millicent West really believes that stuff about the sudden temperature drop which was "compounded by wind..which turned streets to sheets of ice," then she needs to find a new job fast. There was no sudden temperature drop and only the slightest increase in wind. By ten tonight it was still several degrees above freezing and it still is. She is making excuses and NOT doing her job. She very clearly did NOT GO OUTSIDE before making this statement. This is an abysmal level of professionalism.

Posted by: calhern | January 27, 2011 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Urban cities typically DO NOT declare emergencies with a probable accumulation of less than 6". The District received a little over 4, I believer 4.5.

For those who followed, the city WAS prepared in that they already had crews on the roads pre-treating and treating the first round of snow that came through Tuesday going into Wednesday. On Wednesday they went into full deployment using every piece of city owned equipment, contract and leased equipment and personnel. Unfortunately, these resources are useless unless snow is/has fallen. The heavy storm began during the evening rush hour. If you didn't see plows and saw snow pouring down and you were in traffic, the equipment was stuck in the same traffic that you were in.

In fact, the longer the evening commute took citizens, the longer it was going to take for the equipment to do what they do. Falling trees was a major obstacle and they fell because of the consistency and density of the snow. That is not the city's doing, it was natures. And, when branches fall power lines come with them, or power lines, too, fall due to weight of the snow.

I haven't ventured out today, but I would say how the roads look this morning would say more about how the municipalities did.

Mayor Fenty had the same type of issue with a snow/ice storm under his administration. Our arms are just too short to fight mother nature.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | January 27, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

And Mayor Gray's snow team led by Bill Howland the DPW Director are the same people that Mayor Fenty had. So in this regard we're getting more Fenty, not new Gray

Posted by: shepDC | January 27, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I live in Dupont so can't say what is happening in other parts of the City. But in Dupont the major thorough fares like Conn. 17th Street, 16th street were clean and most of the side streets as well.

I took the 16th street bus and it was fine- actually less of a wait than usual.

The issue around Dupont is that people don't clean their sidewalks and I would like to see the City start fining people for that.

Posted by: peterdc | January 27, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Hold up a sec!

Jake Tapper spends the past months repeating "governments have no money and need to make tough budget cuts."

Then whines when he has to walk in the snow (from the White House to DeSales Street).

Wow! That complainin' says everything about the new DC chattering mass. To those visitors, please be reminded that DC doesn't have the money, either...and maybe you'd be better off in Green Bay or Syracuse.

Posted by: tcs1999 | January 27, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

You people are rediculous...

Stop all this whining and get over the fact that Fenty lost. Last winter you were out in a storm TOO... ALONG WITH YOUR KIDS because the stupid Mayor... who had a city owned NAVIGATOR AND WAS DRIVEN AROUND BY POLICE OFFICERS figured if he could get around, so could everybody else. No closed Govt, no closed schools, AND NO PLOWS!!!

I have been looking at the same news stations as you, at all the horror stories in the area, GW parkway, 270, 66, 495, rt 50... STUCK FOR AT LEAST 8 hours... and the thing you complain about is the Mayor of DC CLOSING Govt when fed govt is open late? And this has nothing to do with your boy losing right? Whatever.

Your mad because he listened to the NWS and spent money salting the street last week when the storm bypassed DC and your mad this week because he listened to NWS and salted the streets early yesterday and instead of starting with snow, it started raining and washed the salt away. Then you get mad today because he thought it a good idea to give people time to clear their sidewalks and steps instead of demanding they leave home at 6am to get to work and then giving them a fine when they didnt have time to clear their walkways and steps.... just like FENTY DID!!! GOOD GRIEF!!! Get over it!

The worse issues that occurred in DC yesterday were not even related to unpassable streets. They were because of fallen trees blocking the streets and power outages messing up the traffic lights. And I guess just like the poster who blamed his metro issues on the mayor, you think its his fault the trees fell and his fault the snow was too heavy for the power lines too. So next storm, when he starts spending money to melt the ice from pepco lines so they dont get stressed and paying to shore up all trees in DC (even on private property), you will have two new somethings to complain about. IDIOTS!!!

Posted by: tformation1 | January 27, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Anyone want to inform Millicent that the Capital Weather Gang here on WaPo essentially nailed the forecast and had it lined up for a couple of days?

It didn't come out of nowhere. It came out of a false sense of security by the TV dolts who were too scared to forecast what was painfully obvious.

Posted by: TheJoeGreene | January 27, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

As a stand alone event, not horrible. But I got so sick of the Ward 7 b!+chers and moaners whining about Fenty's performance on the last wet snow that came on the heels of the previous blizzard that in that light, this was a sh!++y performance by GRAY's team, a team he selected regardless of who had them before.
There were no surprises, the forecast was spot on, and the region did not respond well.
In light of all this, Gray gets an F-.

Posted by: streff | January 27, 2011 8:41 PM | Report abuse

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