The District got its first significant snow this past weekend and guess what? It's going to snow again. Maybe not today and probably not tomorrow either, but you can bet your snow boots, salt and shovel that before the season ends, it will snow again in the District. But rest assured, because Mayor Vince C. Gray said, "the District is ready."
"Every snow season is unique, and the District government is planning multiple winter-weather scenarios this season," Gray, 69, said. "Therefore, we're going to be flexible to address emerging needs, such as those presented during the snow storm of Jan. 26, 2011. We will work to ensure that we make swift, well-informed decisions; that we coordinate our response and recovery; and that we communicate our decisions to residents and District stakeholders early and often."
You may recall that a couple of years ago, the Washington region had one of the worst snow seasons in a century. In 2010, there were three powerful blizzards that took place from December to mid-February that dumped over 60 feet of snow in the area. The heavy snow storms closed schools for weeks, had the federal government shutdown for days, and retail outlets had limited hours. Roads were hard to clear because of the sheer amount of snow that fell and the snow plows had to literally push snow to the sides, corners of streets and on sidewalks. Many hilly neighborhoods had to wait days for trucks to come clear the snow while public officials said they lacked the equipment.
On Jan. 26 last year, a quick, wet snowstorm blanketed the Washington area, causing traffic jams on the major roadways as people scrambled to get home. There were complaints from people throughout the region that the response to the snow storm was inadequate and disorganized.
Gray, who had been mayor of the city for a few weeks at that time, said his staff has learned from that experience. "Planning plays a huge role in dealing with snow storms," the mayor said.
John Lisle, the spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, said the typical snow season, which goes roughly from November to March in the District and surrounding areas, averages 15 inches of precipitation. Lisle said the National Weather Service indicates that an average snow season will likely happen this time.
With vehicles and contracts in place for the snow season, Gray said D.C. government closing decisions will be made no later than 4:30 a.m. The decision on whether schools should be opened during heavy snow will be made before the 11 p.m. news on the previous day, he said. These decisions will be coordinated with the federal government and other regional bodies, he said. D.C. government workers will be available to work remotely on a computer from their homes through the city's telework program. Those who are in the workplace when the snow falls heavily have a "shelter-in-place" program in which government employees can stay at work until weather permits them to travel home.
The mayor said that any information on snow can be found on the D.C. government website. For more information about the District's new snow website visit: www.washingtoninformer.com