Frustrated by snow response, Twitter unloads on Gray
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.
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.
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