Snow Angels or Snow Weenies?

What is it about Washington that turns former Minnesota ice fishermen and ex-Maine lumberjacks into wimps when they move here and it snows?

How come once-rugged Montana-hunters and North Dakota dog-sledders turn to mush (no pun intended) at the mere mention of sleet?

Is it caused by drinking Potomac River tap water or is it something in the air? Does our local weather reporting border on the hysterical? How is it that robust folk who walked 10 miles to school, barefoot, when it was 20 below become snow weenies after only a couple of seasons here?

Tuesday’s column was about what happens here when snow is in the forecast. Here’s some reaction from readers, including some former cold country folks who went native after moving here:

  • The problem with the snow in the DC area is the Weather Forecasters and the Traffic Reporters over use the word “Treacherous”. Two snowflakes are not Treacherous. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “Chip” Sandage, D.C.
  • …I spent 15 years working in Boise, Idaho. Summers in the 100s, and winter lows of minus 40 degrees… Studs and winter tires go a long way towards moving forward on the snow. …in Germany if someone is in an accident in the winter …they are cited for unsafe vehicle equipment if they are driving on summer tires.

    If folks don’t want to drive in the snow, of if they want to go home when the wildfire is only 25,000 acres, there is a thing called ANNUAL leave they can use… Sick leave could be used, but I would suggest all supervisors require a doctor visit form on snowy days just to keep the FERS flu crowd and irresponsible herd in D.C. honest. After all the doctors office is going to be closed anyway, right? Greg Pearson, Kuwait

  • Anecdotes aside, we émigrés from Lapland, or true North, grew up with more snow, and we’re simply more used to it, at least for a little while after our arrival in D.C. Then we tend to go native like the people who grew up here, and if not panic like the natives, dread the chilling rhetorical flourishes of the weather poodles that precede every snowfall. Like the President, I’m from Chicago. I took the President’s remarks as he intended, that is, as humorous. Suprisingly, some natives were offended by his friendly needling (much of this, I suspect, from the perpetually offended class). As a kid I never had a snow day. Now I accept this as normal, particularly after raising two kids in Fairfax County. Every snowfall I give thanks to the Fairfax County Public Schools for allowing my kids to live to adulthood.

    This should trump any anecdotes about Senator Kennedy: I once walked to 3rd grade in minus 26 degree weather through the snow. My mother, a Milwaukee native, bundled me up so tightly I could barely walk, and made sure I peed before I set out. Despite the cold that day, I still have all my toes. John Elliott, Fairfax, Va.

  • I live in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts… almost into New Hampshire. It is a riot that you mentioned, what I like to call, “doom shopping”. Yes, I have noticed the mandatory items such as bread, milk and eggs. In “the Valley”, the major purchase you will see is alcohol. God forbid the governor calls a state of emergency and all of the roads and liquor stores are closed, we wouldn’t want these “pour” souls here in “the valley” to get the shakes because their blood alcohol level drops below what is required for them. The milk, bread and eggs for the family are an after thought. Signed, Staying off the roads
  • I am originally from Minnesota where we “know” how to drive in the winter. Every time there is a big storm we would go through much the same thing as you described, including the bread and milk supplies and the slipping and sliding of the cars. Thanks for your work and the great laughs this morning. I hope you made it in safely. Bill A.
  • I loved the snow column. I’m a transplant from a place where they know how to handle the snow. The town where I grew up and learned how to drive just got 11 plus inches of the fluffy white stuff. It’s really frustrating for me to watch the crazies, who think they know how to handle the snow on the roads, not handle it very well. These are normally intelligent people who should really know whether or not they can drive in the stuff or not. Again thank you! Ruth Owens
  • I was one of those people who know how to drive in the snow that always scoffed when the Portland office was shut down for an inch or two of snow. I changed my tune after being in the city when a storm hit. It’s totally crazy, not even safe to walk let alone drive. I have a much better understanding now. When I hear others making fun of the city folks I ask them if they’ve ever been there when the weather is bad. Jeannie in Oregon
  • …I live in Columbia, Md. and commute to Social Security in Woodlawn. To bolster your comment about the relationship between school closings and lawsuits, in my neighborhood, school buses stop at every block to pick up kids. This translates to one stop about every 30 yards. Bob Hayes
  • Hmmmmm! A little sensitive are we?? But I’ve got to tell you I totally agree with your column. I worked at McGuire AFB, New Jersey for over 30 years. We always got the garbage snow, sleet, slush and then had to work in it. As an aircraft mechanic I couldn’t telework. While everyone was viewing the picturesque landscape through through living room window I was getting soaked with de-icer fluid, towing aircraft in subzero temps… so the plows could clear. My relatives in Maine who were much better geared for blizzards went about their business. Bob Johnson, retired fed in warm Mississippi.
  • The reason the people from Chicago, Boston, New York, etc call Washington “Wimp City”, is because in Chicago, Boston and New York, they expect to get snow every year and disappointed when they don’t. They have the budget and equipment to take care of it. In Washington, you can go years without snow, and when it comes, it might be 1 or 2 inches, or 3 feet once in a while. Because of that the budget and equipment are lacking. Also, the DC area is filled with people from Chicago, Boston, New York, that profess to know how to drive in the snow, and people from Dallas, Atlanta, San Diego …that never saw a snowflake in person until the got to DC. Some of them think that they can drive in the snow, and get in the way of the people from Chicago, Boston and New York and that is what causes accidents. Joe White, Philadelphia

Nearly Useless Factoid

Just in time for summer swimwear shopping comes the announcement that there exists a “swimsuit that dries off almost as soon as you step out of the water.” If nanotechnology continues to improve, they’ll come up with one that dries itself off before you get out of the water.

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