D.C. snow: Did last year's storms make the D.C. area less wimpy?

Preemptive school closings. Chaos and panic on the roads. Frenzied last-minute shopping trips for milk and toilet paper. When it comes to dealing with snow, the clichés about the D.C. area are as easy to reach for as they are richly deserved.


Snow strikes D.C. - 1/26/11101 Photos

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After last winter's epic snow storms, is the D.C. area finally stoic in the face of moderate accumulations?


The ultimate rebuke to our snow asthenia came in January of 2009, when a freshly inaugurated President Barack Obama mocked Washingtonians for their lack of flint in the face of winter weather. Stinging? Sure. Inaccurate? Hardly. He nailed it. Or rather, us.

But then came last winter's Snowmageddon. Almost two feet of snow blanketed the city on Feb. 6, 2010, and that was just one in a series of major storms that brought the city to an understandable, record-setting standstill. Even President Obama had to hand it to Washington at that point. This was snow Chicago couldn't argue with.

A year and a relatively manageable 10 inches of snow later, D.C. finds itself in the midst of an identity crisis. Are we still the same wusses we used to be? Or did 55 inches of cold, wet reality finally allow us to grow out of our Chicken Little mentality?

D.C. resident India Thomas is one who now scoffs in the face of anything under a foot. She stopped by the Downtown Silver Spring Whole Foods on Wednesday afternoon, just after the snow began falling, but only because she didn’t have any food at home. She wasn't worried about being stuck in her house, like she was for days last winter.

"Last year, it was just so bad that now when you see 6 to 8 inches, you just kind of sneeze at that," she says. "That’s why I’m out here acting like my life is normal."

Indeed, Thomas' Whole Foods was relatively calm Wednesday night. Customers started steadily flowing around 4 p.m., and the store ended up closing early at 6:30 p.m., but shoppers perused the aisles in no great hurry. Carla Allen and Jamaal Lemon of Silver Spring were among those casual shoppers.

Last year, Allen says, "did toughen people up. But still, when people hear 'snow storm,' they think, 'Oh my God, I need to get to the grocery store.' I, personally, am not that worried about the snow.”

But weren’t Allen and Lemon engaging in that very same pre-snow shopping ritual? Only if said ritual now includes buying ingredients to make risotto. Allen even carried a cookbook with her.

Chip Pirkston doesn’t know if people are panicking less about snow after last year’s wallops. He does know the experience convinced him to move to Arlington after living in Fairfax County for several years. “Having to get in to work from Fairfax last year definitely contributed to my decision to move closer in,” he says, standing under the Courthouse Metro overhang. Judging by some of the traffic nightmares reported in the outer suburbs Wednesday night, Pirkston's Snowmageddon lesson saved him a great deal of trouble. 

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