Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'd be worried more about my eyesight than the snow...

The Washington Post reports:
A resident reported that a white dog appeared to be stuck in heavy snow in a yard; it had not moved in some time, and the caller feared for the animal's safety. An officer entered the yard and discovered that the "dog" was a metalized nylon balloon with the face of a white dog on it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 Hits Wikipedia

So someone decided to create a "Snurricane" article on Wikipedia.  Since Wikipedia these days is all about the citations, at 12:46 yesterday, someone (sloppily) pasted a reference to this site into the article.  At 12:52 the link was removed, but for 6 shining moments, we were there.

The whole article will probably be deleted (most activity now seems to be arguing about which precise justification applies), so enjoy it while you can.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Uh oh

I just spotted someone walking out of Lowe's with a new shovel, and
now I see someone inside with one.

Snow Hurricane? Snurricane?

People are calling the storm we're about to get a "snow hurricane".  Apparently people are wrong, but that's no reason not to panic.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Snow Panic a Growth Industry?

National Geographic indicates that winters like this past one (with two 2'+ snowfalls) -- 1-in-300-year events in the old days -- may become the norm.  Global warming, which you might think would prevent snowstorms, may actually cause them.  Not necessarily for the reason previously speculated here -- shutdown of the Gulf Stream -- but because warmer temperatures cause more moisture to be evaporated from oceans.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

School Buses in Laurel Get Stuck

If my memory of high school is accurate, this is probably the most awesome thing that happened to the kids all year:
She said the Eleanor Roosevelt bus became stuck when it tried to make a U-turn on a snowy street that is part of its normal route. Its 16 student passengers had to get off the bus while a tow truck pulled it out.

Fan Mail

A reader writes:
Your website is very, very funny! I live in northeastern Ohio, and we probably have a couple of feet of snow on the ground now, and I swear, people are in such a panic. Like it never snows in northeastern Ohio in February! So I've been enjoying you website a great deal as I taunt my Facebook friends, who are all in a tizzy over snow. Snow! Have a great day and stay warm!

Thanks! This is a good opportunity to remind people that they can become our fan on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How Not to Get Ice off Your Roof

  • Don't use a propane torch.
  • Don't use a propane torch if you have antique Porsches in your garage.
  • "[H]ire a professional -- one who doesn't employ propane torches."
Someone in Rockville violated all those rules.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hide the Women and Children

Reader DB sends in news of this Snow Dalek, sure to strike panic into the hearts of nerds everywhere.  Panic of a different sort  is in the air here in Wilmington, NC, where our nephew told us about his neighbor's anatomically correct Lady Gaga snowman.  (Sorry, no pictures.) 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Great Moments in Senate Speechifying

"I am convinced that infants born in Washington, D.C., are taken from the arms of their loving mothers right when they are born into a room where someone shows a film of a snowstorm with shrieking and screaming so that those children come to believe snow is a mortal enemy, like a nuclear attack, because I have seen, for over 40 years here, people in this town go into a full-scale panic at the thought of a snowfall."
-Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No, really, people like to buy bread before snowstorms...


Almost a week after the snow started (not counting the minor snowfall we had in the middle of last week), the bread supply at our local Giant is still depleted. Almost everything else is in good supply, but heaven help you if you want bread. (Fortunately, I bought two loaves last week, so we have more than we need.)

Not the best way to get your street plowed...

County drivers working to plow the roads in Prince George's County were accosted Thursday around 10 a.m. by several residents, who told them that if their streets didn't get plowed they were going to "throw them out of their trucks and beat them up," said Susan Hubbard, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Public Works and Transportation.

Full report, including a clarification that doesn't really clear things up, in the Washington Post.

Snowholes Park Where They Like

A reader from Germantown, MD tells us that one of her neighbors panicked in their condo parking lot. What else could explain parking in the middle of the lot? S/he blocked in two available spots, and made it very difficult for parked cars on both sides of the street to get out. Snow plows, of course, cannot squeeze by.

Morning Snowflakes

As I gird myself to head out and shovel (again), please enjoy these tales of snow panic.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Additional Accumulation


We're measuring 9" on the previously-shoveled sidewalk at Probably more on top of the existing snow, but we have no good way of measuring that.

So tomorrow is for shoveling. We still have power, satellite TV and Internet access, so we're grateful.
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They'll pry her snowball from her cold, cold hand...

Snow ball fights in dc are hard core on

There's a new report of an interaction between snowballs and police officers in DC. Either police tried to break up a snowball fight, got hit by a snowball, and arrested the woman who threw it, or police tried to break up a snowball fight, may or may not have gotten hit by a snowball, and arrested the woman who didn't throw it. Depends on whom you believe. Unless there's more conclusive video footage, this one doesn't have the legs of the December story.

A Snowmaggedon Mystery

The Washington post reports that the Tenleytown Safeway was left open by employees fleeing today's storm. In response, weary residents walked in, took groceries, and left money on the empty checkout counters.

A heartwarming tale of people doing the right thing in the midst of absolute chaos. But it gets weirder...
Safeway spokesman Craig M. Muckle said a member of Safeway's security staff got to the store shortly after 2 p.m. Muckle said he was told by the security staff member that all four doors were locked and nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

"Nothing was actually taken," Muckle said. "And there was no money left on the counter."

Oh, so it was an urban legend? Not really...

The paragraph immediately preceding the above denial reads:
A Post reporter was able to enter the Tenleytown store and saw the money, confirming accounts by witnesses and the police. In fact, police said they were having trouble finding anyone from the supermarket chain to secure the building about 1 p.m.

So who are you going to believe? Safeway spokesman Craig M. Muckle? Or the police and Washington Post? I don't know; it makes me suspicious of Safeway's other denials.

I Hope the Fonz's Jacket Is Safe

(They say that everything inside is probably OK, but it's too dangerous to check.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dear Dr. Snowpanic, Active Adult Edition

Dear Dr. Snowpanic,

I live in an Active Adult Community.  We have a major problem with crazies everyday, but it's gotten ever-so worse with this blizzard.  The residents are constantly bothering the snowplow contractors, telling them how to operate the plows and where they should plow and where they should dump the snow, that the workers had to leave the neighborhood because it was too dangerous to do the job.   How can we get these people to understand that they are not the only blizzard victims, short of holding their faces down in the snow?
Ann Achronism
Dear AA:
It sounds like your neighbors have insufficient empathy for the difficult job the snowplow operators have to do.  One solution for this problem is to organize "ride alongs".  Pair each resident with a snowplow operator and let them learn the ins and outs of the job of snowplowing.  As an added bonus, the contractors will be able to receive advice without having to slow down, thus speeding the plowing of your community.

If this fails, I suggest moving to a community of less active adults.  If by the time they get out to the street, the snowplow is long gone, then the workers will be left in peace.

Good luck!

-Dr. Snowpanic

Sometimes a SnowAngel

What defines SnowPanic? It's more than just a sudden, burning desire for French toast ingredients. Panic in the face of a recent catastrophe can result in rioting, looting, and other boundary violations. Disregard for others' space and property, and an inflated sense of one's own needs, can result.

For example, Sunday I noticed a large pyramid of snow in our back yard, near the fence line, which could not have been natural. It was clearly a pile created by a dump of snow, either a one-time dump by a bobcat, or a repeated dump by a man-powered shovel. It was clear my neighbor, who parks in two alley spots carved out of his back yard, had purposefully shoveled a great pile of snow over our fence. In fact, I caught him at it Monday, and we had a brief, polite exchange. (One well-placed "Really?" apparently convinced him to stop dumping snow into my yard without permission.)

In principle, these SnowHoles have invaded a well-defined, obvious border without even thinking to ask for permission. On the other hand, perhaps their relatively harmless actions should be overlooked given the Snowmaggeddon.

From Haiti, I was not too surprised to learn that looters invaded Main Street not too long after their climactic event. Basic needs -- for water, food, and clothing -- can quickly outweigh morality in the face of dire circumstance. But Haitians invading Wall Street, looting bank vaults, is less fathomable; undoubtedly price gouging by those possessing necessities -- building materials, bus tickets to the D.R. -- played a role. Trying to determine how far the moral lines can reasonably move according to current events can melt one's creative energies for hours.

Then, sometimes a SnowAngel restores one's faith in human nature; the simple act on Monday of another neighbor who -- seeing Dr. Snowpanic's fifth attempt to clear the drive -- walked over and helped with the last push, warmed us so that I forgot my pique with the alley SnowHole.

"So shines a good deed in a weary world."

Dear Dr. Snowpanic, Snoverkill Edition

Dear Dr. SnowPanic:

My evergreens seem to have disappeared. Can you help me look for them?

VTY: Friend of Bill

Dear FOB:

Thank you for being the first Dr. Snowpanic questioner to submit a multimedia question. Welcome to the 21st century! (Or possibly the 16th.)

What you are seeing is a phenomenon know as the "tree line".  This imaginary line represents the boundary beyond which trees can no longer survive.  Fear not for the trees, however, as years of adaptation have enabled them to recognize this shift.  They have no doubt migrated south for the time being.  Should warm temperatures return in the next few weeks, expect them to make a re-appearance.  If not, well, the phrase Nullarbor Plain is already taken - start thinking of a new one that Maryland can use!

Good Luck!

-Dr. Snowpanic

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dear Dr. Snowpanic, Neverending Storm Edition

Dear Dr. Snowpanic,

Can you please explain when we officially transition from panicking about the last storm and start panicking about the next one? What are the rules for the proper amount of post-storm panicking?

-- Wondering in Laurel

Dear WiL:

Having just returned from a harrowing two-mile drive, Dr. Snowpanic can say with a lot of authority that panic about the last storm is still appropriate. On the other hand, it's hard to avoid worrying about the 5-10" we have coming. (Or 10-20" based on completely unsubstantiated reports I've seen on Twitter and Facebook.) Think of your panic for the new storm as a layer that slowly settles on top of the panic you still have piled up from the last storm. Get used to the ability to handle more than one panic at once; it will help you in other facets of life.

Good luck!

-Dr. Snowpanic

Third Snow Yields Third Haiku

Winter snow is cold.
Winter snow is seasonal.
Summer snow - unreal!

J.F. Grantham, Tucson, AZ

Dear Dr. Snowpanic, Global Warming Denial Edition

Dear Dr. Snowpanic;

Wouldn't you agree that the weather events of the past month have vindicated the global warming deniers?

Concerned citizen,
Tucson, Arizona

Dear CCTA,

I would say, rather, that the recent weather in DC was vindicated noted science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson.  His 2005 book, Fifty Degrees Below, features the nation's capital trapped beneath feet of snow.  Sound familiar? 

You see, according to NASA, "Global warming could plunge North America and Western Europe into a deep freeze, possibly within only a few decades." This global warming scenario envisions a shutdown of the North Atlantic Conveyor (what laypeople refer to as the "Gulf Stream"). The true snow panicker should assume such an event is happening right now; that is as plausible as thinking that the snowstorms have disproved global warming. Think you survived the December and February snows OK? How about the March, April, June and July ones?

Good luck!

-Dr. Snowpanic

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ear of Snow


We're trying to decide whether or not to panic over this formation that we found hanging off the side of our house. I ended up knocking most of it off with a broom, so it wouldn't take any of the roof with it when it fell.

Photo Credit: Mrs. Snowpanic.
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Snowball Fight in Dupont Circle

Originally uploaded by zugaldia
Dr. and Mrs. Snowpanic were sad to miss this epic snowball fight yesterday in Dupont Circle, as well as the much closer one at McKeldin Mall at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Snowpanic Is Back!

Twenty-five inches of snow isn't going to stop Dr. Snowpanic.  OK, interrupted Internet access is, but it's working again!  Time to search the news for more snow-related insanity.  As always, send your tips to
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow plow panic

I'm having trouble following the news here without Internet access, but I just read our town e-mail list. Someone was asking if the whole town was without power. Thanfully, I knew that we're not, but apparently a tree fell down on a nearby street, taking out a power line and trapping the town snow plow.


In other news, I dug out far enough to see the giant block of ice hanging from our cable TV line -- that probably explains why the Internet is out.

Roof collapse

Pretty impressive picture...

Now I'm really panicking

Internet access is down at

View from the Front

This was the scene around 8AM at HQ. It's only gotten worse.
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Snow Crafts and Activities, Episode 2

During the SnowPocalypse, we here at reminded you to stay at home and safe. During the current Snowmaggedon, we have additional fun if evanescent crafts for you to try.
1. Make ice cream using half-and-half, milk, any fruit or hot chocolate mixes, and snow. Lots and lots of snow.
2. Home alone? Need a date? Make a snowman or woman to keep you company in the long, winter nights. When the power goes out you can bring your date inside. Be sure to dress them if you create anatomically correct ones.
3. Using a spare drape or sheet, create a set of racing flags. Have your family and/or neighbors build their own snow-carts and have street racing on unplowed streets.
4. Play hide and seek with your kids! After bundling them up in layers and snowsuits, toss them into a snow drift, then call your husband or other kids find them while you go inside and enjoy the quiet. (If you have no kids, you may substitute pets.)
5. Prepare for the upcoming holidays by creating your own Valentines using presidents' portraits cut from your children’s schoolbooks.
6. Build a hot-air balloon using aluminum foil, a propane heating tank, plastic tarps, and a laundry basket. After setting it aloft, call the news and tell them you think your service animal was inside – or anything that might grab the newscasters’ attention from the snow.
7. Create macaroni pictures using pasta, matzo, flour-&-water paste, and food coloring. Be sure to use all edible ingredients and eat it later, because you won’t be able to get to the store for days.
8. Mix fireplace ash with the snow to create ethnic snow-people.
9. Make snow angels by playing chicken with the snowplows or tractor trailers.
10. Create your own crafts idea and submit it to

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On...The Floor the Marriott Wardman Park. So, escaping to a hotel is not a complete solution to the day's events...

Neither rain nor snow, nor...oh, never mind.

Just heard on Channel 5 that the Post Office has suspended delivery for the area today.  Good thing I don't have any Netflix to return.  I guess we'd better watch the discs we have, since the power is still up.

Ask Dr. Snow Panic From Arizona

Dear Dr. Snowpanic,

I have been keeping a very close watch on the Snowpocalypse from my home in (sunny, warm) Arizona, because I am concerned for the welfare of relatives who live in the D.C area.  The Weather  Channel, however, only seems to have regular live coverage from Atlantic City and Philadelphia.  Is it so bad in your area that all the weather reporters may have called in sick? 

Concerned Relative

Dear Concerned Relative,

I will have to take your word for it, because The Weather Channel is one of the channels we no longer receive from the satellite.  I assume it will return in a week or so when the snow melts.  The local stations, however, have found no shortage of reporters to send out into the snow and ask people why they have ventured into the snow, then film them as they try to dig the cars out.

For The Weather Channel, however, I suspect the problem is similar to when you read a story about the dangerous Yemeni insurgency and then notice that the story is datelined Cairo.  Intrepid correspondents may have refused their orders to travel into the danger zone -- I do not know what sort of courtmartial provisions basic cable TV has.

Good luck!

-Dr. Snowpanic

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Crash

To use the term du jour, please, everyone, "shelter in place".  The Washington Post reports a ridiculous number of crashes in Maryland and Virginia today. 

  • "A van ran into the back of a snow plow on Route 426 at Interstate 95."
  • In Virginia, two men stopped to help another motorist and were hit by a tractor-trailer

Here at, we like to make light of the brouhaha, but if panic causes you to stay off the road, good.

Didn't See This One Coming...

Of all the hazards that people anticipated from Snowmaggedon, I don't think people at Washington Hospital Center expected to be evacuated because a snow plow caught fire.

Clean the Shelves!

For those who think that tales of shopping panic in the DC area are exaggerated, Gawker has some impressive pictures of shelves stripped bare at Safeway and Wegman's.

Our Rich Snow Panic Heritage

"Washingtonians do not know how to drive in the snow: they slide and skid and spin their wheels and panic. By six o'clock traffic had stopped all over town. People abandoned their cars in snow drifts and marched grimly into the gale, heads down, newspapers wrapped around necks and stuffed under coats."

A description of today's chaos? Of course not! Nobody reads newspapers any more!

This nugget, Arthur Schlesinger's description of Kennedy's inauguration, was unearthed by Government Computer News. Yes, even in DC, publications with names like that weigh in on Snowmaggedon.

First Ask Dr. Snowpanic of the 2010 Snowmaggedon

Dear Dr. Snowpanic:

My friend BC is out of town [in some miserable place called Califunny] and is going to miss all the fun.

Can you suggest any words of solace to make him feel better?

(Of course, when he gets back and finds out his [so-called] friends drank all his beer; he'll really be in the cups...)

Doing Without

Dear DW,

OK, Dr. Snowpanic is back from braving the crowds at his local Giant. He is also back from taking a nap to recover from braving the crowds at his local Giant, and is thus ready to dispense advice.

BC should not fear that he is missing all of the panicking. If there's one thing that will rival the scene at Giant just now, it's going to be the scene at the United counter at the airport Sunday, as displaced Marylanders mob the customer service agent with demands to be sent Just as science cannot explain the sudden spike in demand in milk and toilet paper that just transpired, neither can it explain air passengers' inability to chill and enjoy a few more days in the sun. BC should feel free to jump in the fracas to make up for what he's missing now. Bonus points if after clawing his way back for an important meeting on Monday, work ends up being closed.

Good luck!

-Dr. Snowpanic

If you're not panicking yet, let this guy help you.

Thanks to reader Jeanene B. for the tip. (Warning, you may want to turn the volume down a bit on your computer.)

Update: That link apparently changed; thanks to reader helen D. for the YouTube link.

No Food for You!

According to the Channel 4 News at Noon, the Whole Foods on P Street in DC closed its doors last night due to overcrowding. Individuals temporarily locked out of the store panicked on the sidewalk until the green grocer began allowing people in to shop in shifts. One shopper described another shopper at the scene as screaming into her cell phone that she "didn't have any food," and wondering what to do.

Whole Foods P Street also closed early, as planned, to hold its regularly scheduled staff meeting. Clearly they are not panicking.

Dr. Snowpanic, armed with a short list, went to Safeway last night for simple sandwich stuffs and easy edibles such as fruit and chips. Mrs. SnowPanic stayed home due to slight illness. Unfortunately, we just discovered we forgot a few things (sodas! kindling!), and so may briefly brave the crowds again today. Under no circumstances will we be leaving the house after SnowPocalypse, episode 2.1 gets thoroughly underway. Any minute now....

They're Making Fun of Us!

Keep in mind that an INCH is a big deal in our nation's capital, capable of instilling dread, closing schools - inciting a run on area grocery stores in a mad-mass panic. I'm really not exaggerating. There is nothing more baffling (and on some level, humorous) than being in D.C. before a snow "event". The locals just go nuts. Imagine how they're feeling tonight, doing everything but barricading the doors and retreating to their basements.

And I thought Midwesterners were supposed to be polite.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Total accumulations of around 12 inches or more are a pretty good bet"

OK, the panic is back!

Snow Panic or No Panic?


One of the things that I feel separates the DC-area approach to snow from that of the Midwest or New England is the fact that, for us, snow storms are isolated events. The Midwesterner thinks, "More snow? I'll have to shovel it onto the existing pile." The Marylander thinks, "Snow? I remember that as being trouble."

Except now, snow fatigue is setting in. The snow we got last night was dumped on top of the snow we got last weekend, and the snow we get next weekend will go on top of that. Washington may be sick of snow, but it's no longer intimidated by the white stuff. When I went out to shovel the walk this morning, I thought, "This looks like 3 inches of snow. Piece of cake."

I blame this blase attitude for the lack of fodder for yours truly at If you see further incidents, send them in and I'll post them, but the attitude here seems to be, "Well, it's no Snowpocalypse."

PS Of course, none of this prevented our contractor from canceling on us this morning.

PPS The above picture was taken in Minnesota, June 1962. (Just kidding.)
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Monday, February 1, 2010

Double Trouble

There are two storms headed our way in the DC area. On the one hand, there's only a 15% chance for each storm to exceed 4 inches -- on the other, that means that there's a nontrivial chance that we'll get three significant storms in one week. Panicking yet?