Monday, February 8, 2010

Washington Social Diary - The Storm of the Century

The Kennedy Center.
by Carol Joynt

This is what we heard a lot in the last 48 hours: “You know, in Buffalo they take this in their stride. They go about their business.” Well, this isn’t Buffalo, the residents of Washington don’t take any weather in their stride, and since it is only the year 2010, it’s fair to call the blizzard that just happened here “the storm of the century.” At least for Washington.

The “metro” area covers many square miles, and the estimates vary, but the National Weather Service put the official accumulations at between 17 inches, at Reagan Airport, and almost 40 inches, at Elkridge, Md., in Howard County. In Georgetown I measured 19 inches.
A Georgetown street as the snow began Friday afternoon.
The same street Sunday morning.
The storm caught on video.
In the end the depths matter mostly for the record books. What matters in reality is that the snow is knee deep even for a tall person, effectively shut down the city for the weekend, including airports and public transportation, and crippled normal routine into the beginning of the week. Late Sunday the Federal Government announced it would be closed today.

BUT, it’s beautiful. There’s so much of it, dense and heavy white icing, that it makes even dumpsters look pretty. On the other hand, its considerable weight was brutal to shrubs and trees. Many branches came down and some whole trees succumbed. A roof fell in on a private plane hangar at Dulles airport. Tens of thousands lost power, forcing some families into hotels.

Personally, I welcomed it like a child. In a world of conveniences and routines we take for granted, it falls to weather to stop us in our tracks. And face it, unlike a hurricane or tornado, snow is fun.
Ellen Charles, ready to walk to dinner. Aubrey Sarvis.
The view from Clyde's of a snowy M Street
The scene in Clyde's front bar.
Georgetown's main drag, M Street, on Friday evening as the storm picked up intensity.
A Clyde's waiter takes a peek outside.
Aubrey Sarvis snaps a souvenir photo for young couple.
Ned Brown's trusty truck.
Ellen Charles and Ned Brown in his truck.
The midnight hour: late Friday some merrymakers head home from the bars.
Most Georgetown businesses closed Friday afternoon as the blizzard warnings intensified. Fortunately Clyde’s on M Street remained open. Also fortunately, my friends Ellen Charles, Aubrey Sarvis and Ned Brown were game to head out into the storm for dinner. Ellen, Aubrey and I walked to Clyde’s. It was 7 pm and already the snow was coming down hard and piling up. We loved it. We ate in the bar and looked out the window at the snowfall.

By the time we left dinner a couple hours later we were glad Ned had his truck and could give us each a lift home. Nonetheless, once home I went back out with a friend and my son to simply trudge in the heavy snow, to enjoy the silence of it, and to marvel. It was midnight. People were laughing. Sticking out their tongues to catch the flakes.
Skiing with a Georgetown Cupcake bag in the mouth.
M Street.
A sad result for one of M Street's few trees.
The Georgetown Waterfront Park transformed into a wonderland.
Skiing up Wisconsin Avenue.
A street that leads down to the Potomac River.
Key Bridge.
The Kennedy Center viewed from the Georgetown Waterfront Park.
A tall fir tree came down by the Georgetown Ritz Carlton.
A tree down in the C&O Canal.
This shoveled sidewalk gives a sense of the snow's depth.
Eleanor Powell's first blizzard.
Buried in the snow and under a fallen tree.
On P Street
Early in the storm...
This photo was taken early in the storm. Another ten inches were to fall. Where once were garden stairs.
Dozens of trees succumbed to the weight of the snow.
A Georgetown garden under a heavy winter blanket.
Saturday morning I returned to the streets. The snow was up to my knees. Forward motion was more like marching than walking. At the main streets, M and Wisconsin, some plowing had been done but the road surface was thick with packed snow and ice. Only the essential, the foolish or brave were out in cars. Most people walked, or skied, along the middle of the streets. Dogs made the best of it.

In the afternoon, in fresh dry clothing, my friend Christopher de Paola and I – fortified by a stop at Georgetown Cupcake - made it down to the Georgetown Waterfront Park. It was a winter wonderland. Every direction – the park itself, the Potomac River, Key Bridge, the Kennedy Center in the distance – offered a picture postcard. We watched as a police car tried to make it up Wisconsin Avenue, only to give up and roll back down the hill to K Street.
Find the car in this photo.
No picnics today.
On Sunday morning, a few foolish or brave motorists ventured out onto slick and slippery Wisconsin Avenue.
The last flakes fell around 5 o’clock Saturday evening. People emerged to shake off cabin fever, and to begin digging out, which happened in earnest Sunday morning. “Shovel entrepreneurs” roamed the streets, offering to clear the steps or free a car for $50. Some cars that got dug out were soon stuck and needing a push. For those who could, it made more sense to stay put or walk. By early afternoon school districts began to announce they would be closed Monday, and in some cases Tuesday, too.

By the way, tomorrow’s forecast is for a possible six more inches of snow. Hey, Buffalo – already Washington is second only to your snowfall totals for the year, something in the range of 60-plus inches. Stay tuned. It’s only February. We may beat you.
On Sunday, while some people dug out their cars, most Georgetowners walked. This is P Street, a normally car and bus filled two-way thoroughfare. Inset: The only man in Washington wearing street shoes on Sunday: Tom Vogt, dressed for work at the Hay Adams Hotel, where he's played the piano for 17 years.
Only the bird will get off this Georgetown street in the near future. A "shovel entrepreneur" looks for his next job.
A scene repeated all over Georgetown on Sunday.
An avalanche about to happen. Photo shot in Georgeteown at 5 pm as storm came to an end. Not scientific, but close enough.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: