Snowmageddon–DC 2010

Snowmageddon–DC 2010 

Elisa Babel, MLS

Snow—lots of it—fell on the metro Washington, DC-Baltimore area from February 5—10th, 2010.  But this was no ordinary snowstorm. Names such as Snowmageddon and Snoverkill were bantered around.  When the snowfall finally ended on February 10th, it was declared to be one for the record books, surpassing all previously recorded historic snowfalls.

As a departure from our usual library fare, I’d like to share with PUBLIB readers my personal experience with Snowmageddon.

 February 4th: It’s the evening before the snow storm. I stop off at the gas station at our local Costco after getting off work. Because of the number of people filling up, I have to wait a bit.  Interestingly, when I go inside Costco, it’s not packed.  There are lines but they aren’t lengthy.  Later as I exit the parking lot, there were only a few cars at the gas station.  When I get home, I unscrew the radio antennae and slip on my blue car cover.  L’Argente (my French nickname for my Toyota Corolla) is prepared for the snow.

February 5th: I have the day off. I have two DVDs that I’d checked out and some snacks. I’m set!  Snow continues to fall overnight and well into Saturday evening.  Twice I go out to shovel in the evening.

February 6th: I call the library staff weather line and heard our director’s recorded message that we were closed. Also I don’t check work e-mail when I’m not at the library. But given the circumstances, I wanted to be aware of the library closings.

Late morning I open the garage door to find L’Argente surrounded by snow and more on it.  Whoa!  This more snow than we usually get. My dad had bought a snow blower a few years ago so that’s a huge help cleaning up the driveway and the sidewalks.

February 7th: The DC Public Library system remains closed. The snow plow comes to clear our street late morning. The driver leaves our side completely untouched.  Our next door neighbors had parked one of their cars on the street.  Sigh…

Is that a yellow newspaper bag I see in the afternoon?  Indeed!  It’s the weekend “Washington Post” editions!  Thanks to the brave carrier.

February 8th: There’s a break from the snow—a temporary one.  I had previously requested a day of annual leave so I could do something.  It’s my first time leaving the house.  I pull up a little further than usual at intersections because of the high snow heaps. Entire lanes “disappeared” on some of our local roads. Interstates 270 and 495 in Maryland and Virginia were cleared but there were still hardened snow patches.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (MLK) Library opened at noon as usual, I see from my work e-mail that the library system had closed by 6 pm. (Our neighborhood branches have varied scheduled operating hours depending on the day)

February 9th: A snow warning is issued for the entire metro Washington, DC—Baltimore area on Tuesday afternoon.  That evening, MLK Library and other neighborhood branches close at 7 pm instead of the normal 9 pm.  (Some of our branches already had closed at their normal 5:30 pm time)  Some of my colleagues who live in DC really had to leave because Metro announced it would end its bus service early.  Since I had driven into work, I had a ready escape in our basement garage.  My usual an hour and 10 minute drive home became 2 hours.

I’ve driven in falling snow before but nothing like this!  I went over countless snow patches, a few of them caused me to slide a little.  Fortunately there were few cars going northbound 270 so I had room to maneuver.  Twice I stopped at a gas station and brushed off snow debris on the front windshield and headlights.  Bob Marbourg, Washington’s dean of traffic, and his colleagues on WTOP news radio were awesome with informative reports on all the roadways.

The DC Public Library system remains closed for the next two days and reopens on time Friday morning.

The snowstorm wreaked havoc on everything. The federal government closed for an unprecedented four days; many local governments and public schools gave up opening for the week.  Private and public institutions closed too, adjusting their schedules based the snow.  Maryland, DC, and Virginia deployed many workers to treat the roads and to do snow removal. Twice Metro ran underground service and there was limited bus service.  Maryland and Virginia followed suit with their respective commuter rail services and public buses.  It will be some time before everyone has dug out and streets fully cleared.

Here are some tips for driving in snow this winter:

–       Check your local jurisdiction about street parking during snow emergencies.

–       If you take public transportation, check on service operations when snow is forecasted.

–       If you have garage parking at your library or at a public garage, park there on days that snow is forecasted.  It will help to keep you and your car clean and dry.

–       If you are parking outside, get a car cover from an auto store and use it when snow is forecasted.  Scraping ice off your windshield is no fun.

–       Got that windshield scraper?  Full gas tank? Fully charged cell phone?

–        Tune into your favorite news station for traffic reports and updates

–       If you’ve got a back windshield wiper, use it!  Snowflakes can accumulate on the back windshield too.

–       Be aware of “disappearing” lanes and odd traffic patterns

–       Keep your distance behind road treatment trucks and other equipment.  They don’t go very fast!

–       Stick to the main roads. Your favorite back road or short cut may be too dangerous to travel during a snowstorm.

–       If your library closes early for snow and/or it’s snowing when you leave, take something to drink and a small snack in your car.  You could be in for a longer drive home than usual.

–       Take your time driving.  You will be going slower than posted speed limits. Same goes for taking public transportation.

–       Don’t go out unless it’s necessary!



5 Responses

  1. First, I’m interested in the weatherline. How does that work? We can change our message, but don’t have a separate number. Maybe we should?

    And then what is the policy that you all follow. You mentioned that you were scheduled to take a day off when the storm hit. If the library was closed, did your day off still get charged to leave?

    And if part of the system was open, were the employees who had to work compensated for the day? I mean, some branches might have closed, but some obviously were open…how does that work with leave?

  2. Whenever there’s a weather related situation, DCPL employees call that specific number that I mentioned in my article. Our weather line comes from the Chief Librarian’s Office. The director or an authorized designee can record a phone message on that line.

    If the library must close during normal operating hours, there’s a special paycode (there are a number of them because it’s part of a city-wide software program) that we use on our electronic time sheets to indicate that so we can be paid properly.

    I do get my full leave pay even if the library wasn’t open.

  3. However… There were two days (the 8th & 9th) where staff were required to report work on time, despite the fact that the public transit system was only partially working and the roads were almost completely impassable.

    I managed to get to work both days, however the vast majority of staff (around 85%) were forced to use their annual leave despite being stuck at home due to the transit situation.

    • Yes, that’s true, as it was announced on the weather line for both days. As I mentioned in my post, I had scheduled to have February 8th as a day of annual leave well in advance so that didn’t apply for me that day.
      I did arrive on time on February 9th. While I can’t answer for the staff in the branches, whoever I saw at MLK that day were those who made it in too.

  4. […] soon to be upon us, I’m reposting the driving tips (with a few additions)  from my post in February 2010.  A winter wonderland is fun to imagine but not so much if you have to drive in […]

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