- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

As it turned out, the snow-measuring ruler at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was out of order.
Here we are, finally digging out of the Snowstorm of '03, convinced of its unforgettable power, while the crack team of investigators at Reagan have informed us that the total accumulation of snow goes down as 16.1 inches in the record books.
Come again? Is this a new math thing or a rough estimate?
They have to be kidding. There must be a punch line with 16.1.
Please. This is a matter of pride.
They came up with 16.1 inches at Reagan, while the official measurers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport came up with 26.6 inches. Out at Washington Dulles International Airport, the total was 24.2 inches.
What a week in our besieged city. We go from Code Orange to a blanket of white, from bottled water, duct tape and plastic sheeting to bread, milk and toilet paper.
The latter was no joke this time. Where were you when the storm hit?
You probably were at the grocery store, standing before the last carton of milk, along with a fat dude, an old lady and a XXX-rated heavy breather, poised to implement your elbows and hips. You have seen more full-body contact in the grocery aisles in the last week than from the Washington Redskins in recent seasons.
What is it going to be next week?
Last week, it was plastic sheeting, this week it is milk, and next week, if the forecasters are accurate, there probably will be a run on rubber rafts as we attempt to reprise Johnstown, Pa.
Tell you what right now: You do not want to see WRC-TV (Channel 4) reporter Pat Collins at Point of Rocks, Md., with water up to his neck, as he issues the following bulletin: "It is flooding at Point of Rocks, Maryland."
It always floods in Point of Rocks, and that is that. If we get an afternoon shower in the summer, the residents of Point of Rocks are plopping down sand bags in front of their homes. That is just the way it is if you build a town on the Potomac River's flood plain.
I mean, what if someone built a home on one of the Three Sisters Islands by Key Bridge? That person either would be considered incredibly optimistic or incredibly short-sighted. Either way, the home eventually would be carried away by the river, and let's not contemplate the flood insurance rates on such a property.
It is sort of like those people who buy the homes on stilts that are just a couple of inches from the ocean in Nags Head, N.C. With the first stiff breeze, these homes end up as so much driftwood, and the owners end up with blank expressions on their faces. They say, "Wow, I did not know the ocean was all that."
Anyway, the team storm coverage of the local television stations was compelling, to say the least, starting with, "It is snowing a lot."
And: "Whatever you do, stay off the roadways."
And: "If you venture outside to frolic in the winter wonderland, do not wear a bathing suit and flip-flops, because you could die from hypothermia, and we do not want that to happen."
To be fair, being dispatched to a street corner to report on the snow undoubtedly beats being dispatched to South Carolina to report on a hurricane. The hurricane shot is usually laughable because the poor reporter is reduced to clinging to a lamp pole while being assaulted by the wind and rain.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who cut short his wedding anniversary in Puerto Rico, went on television one late afternoon to commend everyone associated with the cleanup and to warn residents with impassable streets that he has 60 hours to get to their neighborhoods from the time the storm ends. This particular stint before the camera almost rose to the level of an Oscar speech, as the good mayor expressed thanks to work crews, various city officials, their parents, relatives and friends and anyone who owned a shovel.
Seriously, give the mayor credit. He has been feeling our pain, out in the mess instead of hanging out on the beach in Puerto Rico, toasting his 10th wedding anniversary with one of those fancy drinks that has a plastic umbrella sticking out of it.
That is how Marion Barry would have handled the 16.1-inch snowstorm, and not to confuse sore subjects.
Right. It goes down as 16.1, contrary to the overwhelming evidence throughout the region.


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