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In the neighborhoods

Washington's hero this winter is the guy with the snowblower

After two recent snowstorms closed the federal government and schools across the region, people began digging out. The season's snow tally in D.C. reached 55.6 inches Wednesday -- more than the last record of 54.4 inches, set in 1898-99.

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By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 11, 2010

He arrives in a cloud of hissing white flakes with an unmistakable whine, leaving a trail of clear pavement in his wake. He accepts no money for his work. He moves so fast and is so bundled up against the cold you might not recognize him -- or even catch his name.

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He is Snowblower Guy, the action hero of the Blizzard(s) of 2010. All neighborhoods have one -- or wish they did.

In snow-weary cul-de-sacs and buried hamlets across the region, Snowblower Guy has been the man of the hour, working for days not only to clear his driveway but also to help neighbors. He has cleared sidewalks and even carved out routes in roads still untouched by municipal snowplows. After so many mild winters, Snowblower Guy is finally having his moment.

Fred Samarelli, 52, of Vienna used his John Deere with snowblower attachment to carve tracks so emergency workers could rescue an ill elderly neighbor after the ambulance got mired in two feet of snow. His typically modest Snowblower Guy response?

"Just glad I could help," he said.

Unstuck neighbors have heaped praise -- and cookies. They've sent wine, candy, cupcakes, brownies, cabbage soup, gift certificates for gas and even a his-and-hers massage.

"The best fringe benefit is that neighbors from all around come bearing baked goods," said Bill Connor, 51, a District Snowblower Guy who has a media training business. "We got an entire apple pie."

The typical Snowblower Guy seems to be a middle-aged man who already has plenty of other toys to amuse himself with, such as a grill with its own rotisserie or any large motorcycle.

Kirk Randall, 58, a retired energy economist from Fairfax City, owns two snowblowers he keeps in a garage workshop so filled with tools -- six electric drills! -- that he compares it to something out of the old Tim Allen TV show "Home Improvement."

He's the type who's dying for the power to go out so he can fire up his new generator and see whether it works. (His wife, Carol, doesn't mind the two snowblowers but did look askance when he brought home a two-foot propane torch once and tried to melt snow with it.)

After five mild winters, Willie Kelly's family and friends sniggered a bit when he dragged home a pricey, gas-powered snowblower.

"I cannot tell you how much grief I took for 'blowing' all this money on a snowblower," said Kelly, 51, a program manager from Chantilly.

CONTINUED     1        >

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