The Washington Post

Time for Fairfax County to toughen up

UPDATE, 3:35 p.m.: I’ve posted Fairfax County’s response and a wrap-up on this matter here: Counterpoint: Fairfax County’s defense for shutting down

Satellite image from Wednesday showing departed storm in the Atlantic, and snow cover on the East Coast (NASA via Stu Ostro on Facebook)

President Obama implied Washingtonians were weather wimps in 2009. Fairfax County is proving itself to be a poster child for such a characterization.

Amazingly, Fairfax County couldn’t get its act together to open schools today – more than 30 hours after the final flakes fell from what’s best described as a moderate snowstorm.

Four to six inches of fluffy snow fell in Fairfax County…on the grass. What accumulated on the roads was probably about half of that, maybe 2-3 inches. Thirty hours later, that’s probably compacted down to an inch or so.

Hardly crippling stuff.

I don’t care if you’re driving a school bus, a smart car or limousine, driving on an inch of compacted snow is totally doable.

I’m sure County officials would say they’re erring on the side of caution. Please. It’s not particularly hard or hazardous to drive on an inch of compacted snow – in those precious few neighborhoods which crews haven’t yet reached or where patchy streaks of snow and ice remain. You drive a little slower, increase your following distance, and apply your brakes a little sooner and more gently.

In the Upper Midwest, a thin base of snow is on roads everywhere for large stretches of the winter. I realize the D.C. area is not the Upper Midwest, but let’s not discourage people from learning by doing. Again, driving in this stuff does not require great expertise, just a little bit of caution.

Maybe Fairfax County’s decision to close today was influenced by the temperatures. Yes, they were in the single digits this morning…even around zero in a few spots. So do what Montgomery, Alexandria, Arlington and other systems did: delay two hours. Temperatures will recover to the 20s this afternoon.

Closing schools for three straight days is a huge inconvenience for working families who have to take leave or spend considerable funds on child care. Shutting down on Tuesday and Wednesday was understandable. Today’s closure was simply a lame decision in my view.

I’m sure Fairfax County has its reasons for closing down today. I’d welcome any official to contact me with a defense and I’ll post it. I have a hard time believing it will be compelling…but have at it…

UPDATE, 3:35 p.m.: I’ve posted Fairfax County’s response and a wrap-up on this matter here: Counterpoint: Fairfax County’s defense for shutting down

Useful link: How Fairfax County makes inclement weather decisions 

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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David Streit · January 23, 2014

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