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Okay, maybe Washington is experiencing a blizzard

You would think after living all those years in Albany and Buffalo, I would know better than to taunt the weather gods. Which, of course, is exactly what I did with my observation that the Washington region’s weekend snowstorm, as bad as it was, likely did not qualify to be called a blizzard. Either to prove me right -- or perhaps to shame me into silence -- today’s storm arrived, complete with the blowing snows and terrifying whiteouts that are the hallmarks of a true blizzard.

I feel I must apologize to all those snow-weary Washingtonians for whatever part I played in provoking Mother Nature. Like you, I am sick of all this snow; if I never saw another flake of snow in my life it would be too soon. But, then, that’s a feeling I’ve had ever since I left Buffalo more than 20 years ago. So, for all of you who thought I was bragging about my snow superiority, I actually like the fact that I now live in a part of the country where snow is the exception, not the norm. I like that I don’t have to spend half the year dressed like the Michelin tire man, that my morning routine doesn’t include scraping the ice off a frozen car, that snow is an event to be celebrated with an imaginative name and as an excuse to take the day off.

That said, habits die hard, so today I found myself simply unable to stay home. It may seem like bragging, but I couldn’t let some snow stand in my way. I guess you can take the western New Yorker out of Buffalo but you can’t take Buffalo out of the western New Yorker.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | February 10, 2010; 11:36 AM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Next: Armao need not apologize about the snow


The apology was overdue, even if this genuine blizzard had not arrived today. Let's say a prayer for those who are not lucky enough to have taken shelter or adequate provisions until the storm ends.

Posted by: femfour | February 10, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Yes, today, with the 40mph winds, we do have sort of a blizzard. And, as femfour noted, those of us who are in warm homes with good food to eat should count our blessings. When u get chance, you (readers) and your children should read Life As We Knew It--an end-of-the-world young adult novel about survival during a snowstorm after a meteor hit earth! Should be a must-read for everyone!

Posted by: independentwun | February 10, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Having grown up in the Midwest and seen my share of *actual* blizzards, I can say with great certainty-- YES. THIS IS A BLIZZARD.

Haven't seen such a nice blizzard since my business travel to North Dakota. Yes, they shut down out there when things are this bad. Wait until the storm blows itself out, and then go out & start the clean up. In the meantime, pop corn, make fudge, and keep the DVD player going.

Posted by: dahozho | February 10, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"perhaps to shame me into silence"

Apparently not.

Posted by: achachi | February 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Precisely, Achachi. The noxious superiority still comes shining through, even in the form of an "apology"....even more so if that's possible. Delightful, Ms. Armao, really. Thanks ever so much for continuing down this path and your gracious apology to us poor, weather-challenged (and therefore character flawed as your posts continuously and and in a not very well-hidden manner imply?) Washingtonians. Brava to you for braving the elements due to that hearty, can-do, Buffalo spirit of yours. If there is a God perhaps you'll choke on it, once and for all.

Posted by: lolaindc | February 10, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and btw? It's clearly obvious that this massive second punch was due to your taunting of Mother Nature....oh, the power you weld!!

Posted by: lolaindc | February 10, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Or rather, "wield".....funny how one loses the ability to spell when so completely annoyed by such a pompous, loud-mouthed, sanctimonious know-it-all.

Posted by: lolaindc | February 10, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, also saw a blizzard while on work travel in Fargo, ND last year (2009) right before the historic floods. Today is just that. The other storms so far weren't but earlier today was. If you have to go one mile down the road and on the way can't see much past the hood of your own car (and only see other cars when their headlights penetrate that very small distance) that's a blizzard. Didn't even bother to drive today, but I imagine the conditions were quite similar.

Posted by: indy474 | February 10, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I was appalled to read todays post articles from Ms. Armao and Mr. Capehart both of which which showed a certain degree of smugness. I am originally from the Syracuse area which can match Buffalo any time inch to inch with Lake effect snow and cut my teeth driving in those blizzards. To compare snow in Virginia with snow in Upstate NY is unfair. New York has bigger plows and the drivers are very experienced. Some upstate jurisdictions even have departments that plan and deal only in those situations. One other item for both Ms. Armao and Mr. Capehart to bear in mind that we have alot of people in the Metro DC area who never saw snow before coming here and are ill equipped to drive in it. Hence the panic at the sight of two flakes falling coonsecutively and the rush to the grocery stores. Upstate New Yorkers are used to it. After being gone 40 years, I still would not hestitate to drive in a Upstate NY Blizzard, but would think twice before doing so here.
I was happy to see Ms. Armao apology. Yes today is very much a blizzard. As for Mr. Capehart, I have two shovels and he is more than welcome to help remove the 4 feet on my sidewalk.

Luci Martel
South Riding, Virginia

Posted by: dfrv | February 10, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I lived and worked in Vermillion, South Dakota for a year. This was after two years in Wichita, Kansas, where skiing to work was not a terribly uncommon experience.

South Dakota's blizzards, floods that followed the melting snow, and tornadoes (yes, storm cellars are real, not just in the "Wizard of Oz") were new life-changing experiences for me.

The two most common sayings I heard during my time in South Dakota were: "When you leave, you never have to explain why", and "We have four seasons: winter, winter, winter and summer".

Accept and enjoy the weather... it's (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Posted by: wd3q | February 10, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Not only do we know how to handle the snow up here in WNY, we enjoy it. But we have had a slight problem in enjoying it this year: we have not had much of it. While DC, Philly and others have been dealing with snowpocalypse, snowmaggedon or whatever its called, we have missed it all and have had nary a flake in the past few weeks.

So the next time someone points to the snow capital of the US, perhaps DC should be included in the equation, and take a hint from those who deal with it: relax, enjoy the winter and know it will all melt eventually.

Posted by: MarkfromBuffalo | February 10, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I too grew up in Buffalo. I can remember as a young child my father telling me that there were other places that had less snow but I couldn't imagine what that would have been like.

I understand the dangers of blizzards but there's also an incredible beauty to snow that soaks into your soul. For example, my wife works with fabrics so I often find myself looking at quilts or pieces of fabric. Almost invariably when I find an item especially beautiful, she will point out, "You know, that has a white background with a pattern against it." The experience of snow scenes has formed my basic sense of what constitutes beauty. It's easy to complain about snow, but I'd hate to forget its wonder.

Posted by: braj1 | February 10, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

As a transplanted Buffalonian, I agree that western New Yorkers are simply more used to this kind of weather and respond to it differently. Local DC news stations talk about how this winter is the snowiest on record for the area, but in an average winter Buffalo gets half again as much snow as Washington has received this season.

That also means that Buffalo snow removal crews do a better job of cleaning the streets and drivers are better at dealing with the elements. The ability to deal with the elements is a bit of a source of pride up there, actually. However, that doesn't have to mean looking down at others or forgetting that storms (whether technically a blizzard or not) can have serious consequences if people are unprepared.

Posted by: bufan | February 10, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Jo-ann, though I'll concede that you have considerable power in your perch on the editorial Board, it doesn't extend to the ability to provoke Mother Nature. You really are just human.

So I don't accept your apology for the weather. However, perhaps you’ll ask forgiveness when you finally acknowledge the damage you’ve done to DC public education though your distortions and dishonesty protecting Michelle Rhee and her bogus reforms. You can’t apologize enough for that.

Posted by: efavorite | February 10, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

buffalo born and raised. snow is not a big deal when you have people who understand it. they don't drive 70 mph and expect not to have a crash or spin out. they have people who plow the streets more than once every 5 -10 years. people know that they have to clean the snow off the top of their cars. they dress appropriately. they go to school and work. and when they're told to stay home and off the roads they do. it's a buffalo thing, y'all don't have a clue

Posted by: 2tuff4u | February 10, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

As the wife of an Niagara Frontier area school superintendent who called two snow days (and they were really ice storm days)in 10 years, I have really enjoyed reading these columns and comments.

Posted by: rebbdev | February 10, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Like I said previously, I'm from Michigan.

And as others have pointed out, places like Michigan (and perhaps Buffalo) deal with large snowstorms all the time. They have the budget, the manpower, the equipment. I stop short of saying the know-how (at least for Michigan) because this area has done a far better job of clearing the streets than my hometown did.

Take into consideration cities that deal with this several times a year rather than once every 5-10 years. Drivers have more experience with it but the key is EXPERIENCE. You weren't born knowing how to drive on it. And if I recall from my years in my hometown every year there are those that have to relearn it all over again. Bad driving isn't unique to this area. One major difference though is the metro Detroit area is relatively flat and laid out in a straight line. There are no charmingly curving streets, few hills and few inclines. I have four wheel drive and anti-lock brakes and I use it a lot in this type of weather.

Give DC a break

Posted by: seriouslywondering | February 10, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

This dialogue underscores another fact about this area. Despite the so-called natives, who (ugh) cheer for the Redskins and regard those horrid half-smokes as unique local cuisine, this is still largely an area of transplants. We come here to work, either for Uncle Sam or the Parkway Patriots that service him, but we retain our hometown points of view and preferences. If days like these cause us to wax nostalgic, well, it is what it is!

Posted by: Buflonian | February 10, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

@ Buflonian, for myself, there's no so-called about it. I'm a native Washingtonian and absolutely proud of it. Yes, we get sparse snow storms and the region is collectively stupid when it comes to driving in and removing snow. My only grip is with what seems to be your smug attitude toward folks from here.

I'm happy you get big snow totals and can drive in a driving blizzard. However, that's no reason to take lame shots at our local football team or the fact that many of us like half-smokes from Ben's or any place else. You've got your traditions up there and we've got ours here. Leave it at need to condescend.

Posted by: noel5150 | February 10, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I must chuckle at this mainly because I am a Buffalonian that had transplanted to New Hampshire and worked in Massachussetts during the 60s and 70s.

I remember one February when a Noreastern hit New England and Massachussetts closed the whole State for three days. Seems that the Mass. state politicians were more concerned in funding liberal programs then assuring the public of clean streets in winter, so they ran out of money.

Speaking of Buffalo, the only thing that was closed during a snowstorm was the Skyline bridge (I believe it was Furhman Blvd.) It's a town where in college in early May you walked from building to building in a short sleeve shirt on Tuesday and in a parka during a spring snow the next day.

Of course I smile now because I now live and work in California where the sun shines 80% of the time and the coldest it gets is in the 40s. The only storms that Californians must endure is Pelosi, Boxer, Feinstein and the State legislature. I can't even remember what a snow shovel looks like.

Posted by: captain3292 | February 10, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, one-up-manship appears to be fairly common. I find that when anyone relates any experience (this show is bad, this pizza is good, this service works well), many simply use the conversation to show how much they know, or to show the person really doesn't understand what they are talking about. Its a bit sad. We rarely listen to what the other person is saying. Too often, we immediately start parsing what they say to prove them wrong or to puff out our chest.

Posted by: | February 10, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse's the Skyway you're thinking of. And yes, it's the one road in Buffalo that does close in bad weather. Genius engineering on that one.

Posted by: bufan | February 10, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Buffalo is a cow town. I think Prince William County VA has a larger population. When is rush hour in Buffalo anyhow? When steel mills change shifts? Do they even have the concept of a rush hour in Buffalo? I grow weary of transplants from snow belt cities of less than three hundred thousand who cop some kind of superiority complex about the handling of major snowfalls in the DC-Arl-Alex-Fairfax-Mont-PG metro area. Yes it must be very easy to navigate the snow covered streets of a city where half of the local population seems to be parked in their respected neighborhood bar. Good old Buffalo, where rush hour is still only an hour. And yes, I have been to Buffalo and even by Buffalo standards, this is some kick a$& snow. The big difference being that we have 8 times the population and a high percentage of that goes to work everyday. So shut up and grab a shovel.

Posted by: ntrlsol | February 10, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey! Quit piling on Ann Armao. She has been very accurate and reasonable in her comments on the unusual and unfortunate weather that the Washington area is suffering through. As for the dumb, ill-informed post about Buffalo by ntrisol,I would suggest that he should check out his facts in the future, before shooting-off his big mouth.

Posted by: JanJezioro | February 10, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Blizzard? As an ex-Buffalonian I'd give this a 5 out 10 on the blizzard scale. Nice try but doesn't quite cut it. Now in a real blizzard the snow crystals get blown into the interior of your parked car from the force of the wind, and your engine gets coated with snow from the same process. 'Course I'm too cozy in my home to go out and check to see if that's happened! Growing up in Buffalo leaves you with a modicum of common sense re snow/blizzard behavior. Stay inside, eat, read, nap, repeat, wait for the sun.....

Posted by: Caz2 | February 10, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

As someone who lived through the Blizzard of 77-78 in western NY, I can assure Washingtonians that they have no idea of what a winter is like on the shores of the Great Lakes. After leaving NY I moved to Raleigh NC, where 20 inches of snow in 1999 paralyzed the city for a week. In the aftermath of that storm it was easy to discern who were native southerners and who were northern transplants: while we chatted & joked in supermarket lines about the weather, southerners were silent and had a "deer in the headlights" look about them.
In western NY, we never worried about dealing with a bad storm for a week or so. We were used to dealing with four months of storms, with howling winds. Always the winds and bone-chilling dampness off of the lakes.
A normal weather forecast in western NY? "snow flurries tonight, with 2 to 10 inches accumulation" Try that from November through mid-March

Posted by: focalpoint1 | February 10, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

OK - unless you are driving the same car as you had in the '77
Blizzard - remind your husband - don't pump the brakes!!!

Posted by: Cragito | February 10, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

ntrlsol: Indeed the shovel has been grabbed, in fact, the snowblower already deployed to clean our own driveway and assist several neighbors in the process. There's nothing smug about our attitude; smugness, in fact, is what is rampant in WDC among many former small-town denizens who move here, stay a while, and eventually believe that they're at the center of the universe. What they need to keep in mind is that politics is nothing more than Hollywood for ugly people.

Posted by: Buflonian | February 10, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ms. Armo,

I have lived in Amherst, a neighborhood north of the City of Buffalo, for most of my life but have stayed in other climes for a sufficient period to take umbrage at your spurious observations. The truth is that it would be difficult for me to count on my fingers the days during my long life that snow kept me from moving around this area at will.

If you check the FACTS you would discover that your condescending innuendo toward the Buffalo area is way off the mark. As some have claimed, we certainly are not the "snow capital" of the world. In fact, our weather, with few exceptions, is actually quite moderate - Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

Of the many really wonderful things this area has to offer its citizens; even when it snows, we can get from the river or Lake Erie on the West side to the Airport on the East side in about fifteen minutes or so.

And, of course, in the snow belt in the mountains South of the City there are thousands of folks that love to ski, ice skate, snowboard and enjoy other winter sports.

In addition, if we occasionally run out of things to do in the Buffalo area, Toronto is only about an hour and one half away by car.

Come on home honey. It will be easier to justify your return to Buffalo to your beltway friends than to convince any of us in Western New York that you did the right thing to move in the first place.

Posted by: jcimasi | February 10, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

The folks in Buffalo and surrounding areas live these events on a regular basis as do many other folks in snowy areas in the US and Canada. We are simply used to this sort of weather and prepare for it accordingly. Once in a century storms or events can catch anyone unprepared. It is my hope that these events will act to bond us together, not drive us apart. Shared experiences have a tendency to do that for people, regardless of geography. The folks in DC and surrounding areas must know that if they need help, I know they can count on the residents of Western New York and other areas to respond. I've already heard of the DC streets department consulting the Buffalo streets department for advice. I'm sure more assistance is forthcoming if necessary. I grow weary of the bashing and badmouthing based on geography - it is no different than being critical of other personal choices like religion. I know the folks in Buffalo and DC are bigger than that. All I ask is that down the road when you hear about some huge storm up here, the DC area folks think to themselves "wow, I lived through that experience and I understand."

Posted by: tbasinski | February 10, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

"I feel I must apologize to all those snow-weary Washingtonians for whatever part I played in provoking Mother Nature".

Although I hesitate to "be critical of other personal choices like religion", you must quit watching the 700 Club immediately.

As far as "bashing and badmouthing based on geography", it seems to me less likely to result in serious bodily injury than your typical NFL or NHL game, (or singing "I Did it My Way" at a karaoke bar in the Philipines) and almost as much fun.

I see that Colbert King stands by your comparison of Buffalo and District weather.

I'd happily pay $40 for a hardcover book filled with 200 pages of his reminiscences - one of which your previous post just elicited.

My apologies for previous cantankerous comments, which showed nothing so much as an unbecoming tendency to be snarky and a lack of careful reading and research.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 10, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Why is everyone so hateful in the Post comments sections? Seriously folks, you need more fiber in your diet or something. Chill out!

Posted by: ryanbin72 | February 10, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

People respond to "extreme weather" in one of at least 3 ways -- by embracing it, by hunkering down in their houses like groundhogs, or by escaping, sometimes permanently (as this blogger attempted to do by leaving Buffalo for DC...oh the irony!). In any case, when it comes to snow and ice, I am definitely in the first camp. In this spirit, there is an article in today's NYT which will make many native Northerners smile in recognition:

And yes, I have lived in Buffalo, and DC. And it not is hard to guess which climate I prefer (in summer *and* winter!).

Posted by: markmjm | February 11, 2010 5:16 AM | Report abuse

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