According to the crackerjack group of meteorologists who service the Washington, D.C., area (or at least the ones on the stations I watch who shall remain nameless), today would be a day with some snow flurries early, perhaps some light accumulation on the grass and this evening would be a likely mess full of heavy rain. In fact, the entire area is under a flood watch until around midnight.
A couple of things to note here:
1) I respect meteorology as a difficult vocation; predicting the weather and how bad it may or may not be can be very stressful. It’s made even more stressful by the fact that local school systems are basically at the mercy of the best guesses of folks named Tucker, Brick and Kelly Bundy. Whether schools will delay for a few hours or cancel altogether (and parents appreciation for or annoyance with those decisions) rest firmly in the hands of that fine cavalcade of weather prognosticators. At the same time, it really is the only job where you can be severely wrong and keep your job. If you fuck up enough drive-through orders at McDonald’s, you’ll be fired. Not so says the weather community.
2) DC has a particularly bad track record of predicted wintery weather. Our weather forecast community will say, damn near in unison, a few inches of snow and we’ll get 2 feet (that’s happened). Also because of a forecast, the entire region will shut down schools for the day only for it to end up being a snowless, sprinkle-less, sunny but cold regular, degular ass day (that’s happened, too). I understand they all rely on several weather models; DC must still be using old Netscape models or something.
Thus brings us to today and that forecast I mentioned above. Spoiler alert: While we’re not getting several feet of snow or anything, it definitely snowed enough to fuck up the entire morning commute, even with several school system delays and closures. As usual, the region got caught with its pants down.
At 6 a.m., I woke up and looked out my window. It was snowing, but lightly. a layer of snow covered my trash cans and was starting to dust the grass. By the time I walked out of the door at 7 a.m., the conditions were the same. My windshield was snow-covered but the ground and roads were mostly just wet. One swipe with the windshield wipers and I was read to go.
Here is what my morning typically looks like on days when I pick up my daughter from her mother’s house to take her to school. I leave my house in DC around 7 a.m. and I usually get to her house in Ft. Washington, Md., between 7:20 to 7:25 a.m. Best case scenario, we leave by 7:25 a.m. but usually its around 7:30 a.m. Her school is in Alexandria, Va., about 12 miles from her mother’s house. On a standard traffic day, it takes between 35 to 40 minutes to get there. You can start dropping kids off at 8 a.m. at her school, but she has to be inside by 8:15 a.m. or she’s marked tardy. On a normal day, we get there on time.
Today was not normal. When I left my house it wasn’t bad. But like, a minute later? Shit got real. All of a sudden, it’s snowing heavily. The roads are starting to accumulate slush. And yes, it happened that quickly. By the time I made it to pick up my daughter at 7:20 a.m., it was legit snowing. It was a snowfall minus the cocaine in Los Angeles in the ’80s. That’s a Snowfall television show joke. Smile, bitch. Smile, bitch. Come on.
We left at 7:30 a.m. Of the 12 miles it takes to get to my daughter’s school, roughly 8 of them are spent trying to get to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge that connects Oxon Hill, Md., with Alexandria, Va. 8 Mile. ESPN 8: The Ocho. For those unfamiliar with the area, in order to get to Virginia from either DC or Maryland (or vice versa), you have to cross a bridge, which means there are but only so many entry points into or out of the state of Virginia.
Because of the what is now super-heavy snowfall, resulting in multiple traffic accidents because the temperature dropped below freezing and random ice patches seemed to pop up out of nowhere, we didn’t actually get to the bridge and out of the state of Maryland—again 8 miles—until 8:35 a.m. By the time we got to the bridge, she was already late for school. Every two minutes WAZE informed me that there were “police reported ahead,” which sucks because I have the boy band voice activated and it is nowhere near as awesome as it should be.
On Woodrow Wilson Bridge, a bridge that spans a little less than a 1.25 miles, there were AT LEAST three separate incidents: two car accidents and one stalled truck. The three of those separate but equally disruptive incidents basically backed traffic up into Maryland for miles on miles on miles. We finally got past those at about 8:45 a.m. and I got her safely to her school at 9 a.m., though they absolutely should have delayed this morning because her school’s driveways were basically WAITING to turn into ice skating rinks with all of the slush covering them. Nary a salt truck was in view.
My truck, heavy as it is, caught several ice patches and leaned with it and rocked with it a few times. Sitting in stand-still traffic is what hell is like in my head.
I recognize that my hour and a half commute is nothing compared to the snowpocalypse that engulfed the south and particular Atlanta several years ago. But we get snow in DC. Basically every year, some measurable amount of snow will fall on DC. And every single year, we have some infrastructure fuck ups that starts with a bad forecast that has the entire region in a headlock for at least a day. No salt trucks were out. It doesn’t hurt to put down salt, just in case. Obviously this will better prepare the region for the remainder of the wintery months. This shit is somewhat preventable, and in the famous words of Suga Free, if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.
DC needs to listen to more Suga Free.