An Inch of Snow, Icy Roads Unleash 9 Hours of Traffic Chaos Across D.C. Region

Growing up in the “Lake Effect” snow belt of upstate New York, (Rochester, to be precise), as a kid we used to shovel the driveway after a 12” overnight snowfall so that my father could get the car out and drive to work.  After that, we trudged down to the corner to catch the Greece School District bright yellow bus to get to school.  I can’t recall a single “Snow Day” when schools were closed during my childhood despite the fact that two or three foot accumulations of snow overnight were not all that uncommon.  Now, I could be wrong, of course, since I casting back several decades to access my often faulty memory bank. 

But I remember when I first moved to Washington and I just had to laugh when an inch of snow forced the closure of all the schools, the Federal Government, local governments and every day care center in the entire Metro Region.  And that was before we had a METRO system.   It seemed so surreal to me.  Since then, of course, I’ve come to understand that unlike upstate New York, and Chicago, or Boston and Buffalo, where snow is simply a part of the landscape from October to March, the Washington region – we don’t get a lot of snow except for when we do – isn’t prepared for snow.  Even an inch.  Ever.

And last night’s one-incher (maybe two inches out in the far suburbs like Hagerstown, MD or Winchester, VA) once again proves that D.C.’ers are basically wimps when it comes to snow.  All right.  That’s unfair.  The weather folks yesterday predicted a “light dusting”  or “little to no accumulation”  regarding our overnight snowfall but Mother Nature surprised us by not cooperating with our meteorological professionals.  (These, by the way, are the same folks who are predicting another Snowmageddon for this weekend.)

Here are some pics and tweets of your National Capital Region residents dealing with our one inch snowfall:

Most suburban school districts were closed this morning.  D.C. schools were opening two hours late.  Stories of 6 hour commutes from Downtown to Silver Spring and Rockville (normally 45 minutes if there are no traffic accidents) during the evening rush hour D.C. are littering social media.   The Federal Government and the D.C. Government are open while the Arlington City Government is opening at noon.  Quite a mess, really, from slightly more than the "dusting" that was predicted.

To be fair, because this one-incher took the region by surprise, none of the roads were pre-treated, i.e. laid with salt before the snow began and that's pretty much the reason for the mess today.  

But I am wondering how we might fare this Weekend when our meteorological professionals are predicting between 12 and 20 inches from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon.  Then again, this one we have plenty of warning for.  

We don't get snow often and we don't get a whole lot of it.  Often.  But sometimes we do. Here's a piece about the 1979 snowstorm that not only paralyzed Washington for four days, but the entire East Coast:

Forecasters believed the Presidents’ Day snowstorm of 1979 would move south of Washington and out to sea, only grazing the area with a light to moderate snow, possibly accumulating 1 to 3” or 4 to 8”. Instead, the storm intensified and moved north-northeast up the coast. As snow piled up across the Washington area, snowfall forecasts were updated frequently to catch up with the rapidly increasing accumulations.
By the morning of February 19, the Washington area received up to 26” of snow, with most of the snow falling overnight. National Airport received 18.7” of snow and Dulles Airport received 16.3” of snow.

NOTE:  Last night's snow hit us from the West where most of our weather comes from.  Snowfall from these storms is typically much less than the storms that work their way up along the Atlantic Coast and hit us from the South.   And this is precisely the track of the storm we are expecting this weekend.  Stay tuned!


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  2. Thank you Jordan. I appreciate your comment. Scott


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