Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blizzard of '10


A typical DC winter has a few inches of snow a few times a season, but every once in a while DC is walloped by a massive blizzard. The first one I remember was the Blizzard of '79. We were living in Annandale, and Ken & Helen were visiting from Iowa when a storm brought two feet of snow to the area (18.7" officially at DCA, but the DCA total is always lower than the rest of the region since it is right on the Potomac). Dad and Ken built a snow tunnel system through the yard for me to play in, and cemented early on my love of snow. My senior year in high school brought the Blizzard of '93 (a.k.a the Storm of the Century), over a foot of snow in McLean along with wind and ice canceled school for a week, and sent me trekking through the snow combat cabin fever by being snowed in with friends. The Blizzard of '96 happened the first week of January while I was on winter break from college. This storm was a one two punch with two feet of snow falling in the first part of the storm followed by another foot a few days later. Once again, the snow sent all my friends out trudging across McLean to meet up with each other (although I think there was more beer involved this time around;-).

Since moving back to DC from Austin, we haven't seen much snow. We moved back a year too late for the Blizzard of '03, and we drove out to Iowa the day before the big storm this past December. We may have missed the snow before Christmas, but the conditions (El Nino, Greenland block, and a negative north Atlantic oscillation) were in place for a very snowy winter. Sure enough, the day after my birthday brought the beginnings of the Blizzard of '10, the one storm to rule them all, Snowpocalypse, Snowmaggedon. By any name this storm was a monster. The snow started Friday afternoon, and shut down the Federal Government. By late Friday afternoon there was already enough snow for Owen and I to build a snow fort in the front yard. Our neighbors Hunter & Joy had some friends over, and not to be outdone started building an igloo to compete with our snow fort. After Owen went to bed, it was five on one in the neighborly snow fort building competition, so we ended up collaborating on the forts. Using a kitchen trash can, we packed the wet snow into ice like bricks for building materials and built snow structures that should last until spring.

On Saturday, the snows continued to cover the forts, and we tried to keep up shoveling the sidewalks to provide a pathway for the kids on the block to get to each others' houses. The snow in our front yard piled up three or four feet deep as we kept shoveling, and provided the perfect spot for snow tunnels to expand the fort. Saturday night the snow finally stopped falling, and we measured 21" of heavy wet snow on our back deck here on Capitol Hill.

Sunday brought sunny skies and lots of time playing with friends in the snow forts. Owen loved playing outside in the snow, but at three years old, his endurance out in the cold is limited, so we had lots of indoor time as well, and the first signs of cabin fever were showing. Monday brought more of the same, our street still was not passable, we played more on our block. By Tuesday it was becoming clear that another major storm was on the way, so we took advantage of the calm before the second storm to walk over to Grandpa Fawcett's house and go out for lunch down by Eastern Market. It was great to get out of the house, but walking that far with Owen on my shoulders and Nora in Elaine's baby backpack was quite exhausting. When we got home, the next storm was already starting.

As I write this, we're in our sixth day essentially trapped in the house, over ten inches of snow has fallen from round two of the the Blizzard of '10, and we've broken the record for the snowiest winter set all the way back in 1898-99. The winds are gusting over 40 mph, and the view out the window is a complete white out. There is little prospect of getting anywhere by car for the next few days, and who knows when we'll go back to work. Gotta love it.

(click here to see all the Blizzard pictures)

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