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Monday, January 25, 2016


It's over. The great blizzard of 2016 has moved on, after dumping up to almost two feet (61 centimeters) of snow on the Washington, D.C. area. The storm doesn't have a catchy name like "Snowpocalypse" or "Snowmageddon" yet, but the Washington Post says the amount of snow that accumulated over the weekend will probably rank in the top five snowstorms to have ever struck this region. 

The fun actually began on Wednesday. Even though everyone knew a blizzard was due to arrive by Friday, people were caught off-guard by a relatively light dusting of snow on the evening of the 20th. Though it only amounted to a couple of inches or so (five centimeters), the fact that it happened just as the evening rush hour was getting into gear combined with the lack of preparation by the authorities to bring traffic to a halt. What would've taken some people minutes to get home ended up taking several hours. Fortunately for me, the snow only started falling as I was getting off the shuttle bus at my apartment complex, so my commute home wasn't affected. Here is the view of from our balcony later that evening:

Thursday was uneventful weather-wise, but it did happen to be my daughter's tenth birthday. In addition to the gifts we gave her, Amber received an additional present in the form of the next day (Friday) being declared a snow day due to the approaching storm:

For its part, the federal government decided it stay open until noon on Friday, so I went to school for one class. The snow began falling and the wind began blowing later that afternoon. By the time we went to bed that evening, cars in the parking lot were beginning to get covered (ours included):

Saturday was the worst of the blizzard. This was the view that greeted me after waking up yesterday morning:

Amber could barely contain her excitement:

The snow was coming down hard, and the wind was furiously whipping it around, but a blizzard like this was too good to pass up. So after lunch my daughter, my wife and I bundled up and headed out into the elements. For me, it was a chance to break in my heavy-duty winter jacket, which I had had specially made last winter while we were still living in Shanghai, but had not yet had an opportunity to wear. Despite my hands freezing up each time I took off my gloves to take a photo, and the pain my face was feeling from the stinging snow blowing directly at me, my body was surprisingly warm in the 23°F (-5°C) temperatures:

Outside was a winter wonderland:

The kids in the apartment complex were taking advantage of the one slope on the grounds. That's Amber walking up, partially obscured by a tree. And despite appearances to the contrary, there were no casualties that afternoon:

While my daughter continued to play on the slope, I took a walk around the compound. Some people were trying to dig their cars out from under the snow despite the fact the blizzard was still going strong:

The cemetery next door:

The boulevard going by our apartment building was sensibly empty of traffic:

Little snowmen were scattered about the grounds:

Our car. Despite appearances, we were relatively fortunate, a result of our location. Cars several spaces down from ours were almost completely buried:

I took this picture while standing in the middle of the road, facing directly into the wind:

Another view from our balcony, shortly after returning home:

A couple more pics:

It was still snowing after dinner, but the worst of the blizzard was over by this point. My daughter and I ventured out once again, while my wife decided it was better to stay inside and enjoy the warmth. Amber busied herself with making snow angels:

Some people were going to have their work cut out for them the following day:

Today (Sunday) was sunny, and with the storm having moved on, it was time to survey the damage. Our balcony this morning:

Pamela had made this snow...thing yesterday, using an old pumpkin from Halloween (which explains its plump appearance). And in case you're wondering, yes, we do still have our Christmas tree up:

I went outside on my own after breakfast, leaving the apartment complex and venturing out into the neighborhood. I first trudged through Oakwood Cemetery: 

After seeing how the dead were coping with the snow, I walked down the hill toward the metro station. The sign seems very appropriate (and gives an idea of how much snow had fallen), but the youth soccer field buried underneath had been closed at the end of autumn to give the field time to recover:

Kids enjoy being kids:

A frozen creek:

It'll be a little while before the cyclists and joggers can get out on this section of the W&OD Trail again:

Hands down the best snow sculpture I've seen this weekend:

Pigeons at East Falls Church metro station wondering what had hit them the previous day. Also probably wondering what happened to all the people - the Washington Metro system stopped operating on Friday evening, and remains suspended as I write this at around 8pm on Sunday evening:

From the station, I reversed course and walked back uphill, using the middle of the street as the sidewalks were unusable unless you wearing snowshoes. At the Eden Center shopping complex, some stores were reopening and the parking lots were being plowed, but things were far from normal:

Following lunch, the three of us went outside as a family unit (that's my camera-shy spouse in the background, clad in her own made-in-Shanghai winter coat):

As I wrote earlier, the situation with our car wasn't as bad compared to some other vehicles, but we decided to start clearing away the snow:

The apartment complex's management was loaning out snow shovels to the residents, but supplies were limited, so we got to work using only a bucket, dustpan and ice pick. About an hour into the job, a shovel became available, but it still took the three of us nearly 2½ hours to remove most (but not all) of the accumulated powder:

And so we got through Snowzilla. Until this weekend, my experiences with blizzards had been limited to being forced to stay indoors by relatively small storms in Tōkyō 東京 and Washington state. I found this blizzard to be fascinating and even exciting, but I don't really want to go through another one anytime soon. Seeing as our next post will be in the Baltics, however, I'm not sure my wish will be granted. All the time I was straining my back and risking a heart attack removing the snow piled up around our vehicle, my mind kept returning to past travels - to places like Waikiki, Okinawa 沖縄, Ko Samui and even Kenting 墾丁, which might give you a good idea of my personal preferences.

The snow may be done for now, but the cold weather will continue. Temperatures are going to drop to around 12°F (-11°C) tonight, meaning everything is going to ice over. Fortunately, both my daughter and I have snow days tomorrow (good thing for me, as I didn't do my Russian homework this weekend), but I have been around snow enough to know that it's going to get messy and ugly once all that white stuff starts to melt (and rain is predicted for the middle of the upcoming week). Thailand is looking better than ever as a retirement option...

Amber's post-Snowzilla snowman


  1. Jim, i need one of those awesome coats! the length is perfect. wish i could get one made here in Taiwan....

    1. My wife found a shop in Shanghai that specialized in winter clothing. She thinks it might be difficult to find a similar business in Taiwan.