National Consumers League

Snowmageddon: Day Six observations


By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director Today is Wednesday, February 10 in Washington DC: Day Six of a week of unrelenting cold weather and powerful snow storms that rival anything we’ve seen in the last few decades – or century, even. The federal government and local school systems have shut down all week. That’s unthinkable for a power center like Washington, and it means no Congressional hearings, no Supreme Court arguments, no lobbyist meetings with Senators, no presidential press conferences. The only stories on television are about the weather: the white-out conditions, heavy snowfall and 40+ mile per hour winds. Kids and their parents are stir crazy, cooped up at home without access to the usual entertainments – Starbucks coffee, movies, museums, and in some cases cable television and heat! Because of the hazards to workers trying to slog their way into the office, including our hardworking NCL staff, we told everyone to stay indoors, work from home where possible, and be safe. In fact, local municipalities have asked that people stay off the streets to allow their dedicated staff to do their jobs of clearing the roadways. Their safety too is important; they don't want cars running into their trucks on the slippery streets or vice versa. The safety and well-being of workers everywhere should be the priority during this most unusual weather crisis. I was out early shoveling but like Sisyphus (who was compelled to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down again, forcing him to begin again). To no avail, the wind blew the snow right back onto icy steps. I then slogged through the snow with my dog to deliver a promised homemade loaf of bread to friends who were hosting a gaggle of boys (my son included) who had camped out at their house for the night. My Welsh Terrier eventually refused to walk any further, stopping dead in his tracks in blowing winds. He was fed up with the mounds of snow he had to climb through. I carried him the rest of the way. It’s interesting to see the most powerful city in the world brought to a standstill by weather that none of the three branches of government can control. Bipartisan bickering has halted, if only for a day or two, and the extremes of this city – the powerful and wealthy and poor and disenfranchised – all contend with inconveniences and danger ranging from digging out their cars to power outages. The only substantive debate seems to be whether the federal government should kick in to support local snow removal budgets in Maryland, Virginia, and the District. We have yet to see how that turns out. No doubt all will be back to normal in a few days. The weatherman is predicting dry, 36-degree days ahead, but none of us will forget the week in February 2010 when snow storms closed the schools, closed the museums, and closed every branch of government in Washington DC.