The Runs of August

Monday - 8/29/2011, 2:01am EDT

(The above-headline comes with apologies to Barbara Tuchman, chronicler of other great disasters.)

August 29, 2011 — First, a series of killer tornadoes sweep the South and Midwest, followed in many places by major flooding.

Texas and much of the south have had a record number of 100-plus degree days. Major drought. Cattle are dying. Brush fires all over. Even the famous bats of Austin are working overtime to get their quota of insects.

Much of the East is hit by a 5.8 earthquake which cracked parts of the Washington Monument - not to mention the concrete outside the office of WFED morning host Amy Morris, whose office is next to mine. Talk about a close brush with death, yet we soldiered on.

Thne Hurricane Irene mdash; one of the biggest and baddest in a long time — decides to travel up the East Coast.

Finally, last week, The Washington Post reported that NASA said that global-warming-oceans-risking warnings notwithstanding, the global sea level is actually a quarter of an inch LOWER than it was this time last summer. Go figure!

And today, the last Monday of the best month, we get what is maybe the unkindest cut, or unkindest pile-on of all. Traffic is back to normal.

D.C. (except for the earthquake and hurricane thingee) has been a paradise this month. Congress left town. The White House left town. All those people associated with them — journalists, lawyers, lobbyists, PR experts and think tank thinkers — left too. That group includes some of our area's (in fact, the country's) most affluent, demanding and, uh, vocal residents. Many with egos deserving of their own zip code. With them out of town and off the roads things were, well nice. As they are almost every August.

Their annual migration - typically from Washington to New England - left us in the DC area - normally the second most congested traffic in the nation - living like folks in Mayberry only with a lot more Starbuck's. You could park almost anywhere. Get a table at the best spot. Go an entire week commuting without being honked at or given the one-finger salute.

Now those people - at least those with school age kids - are back in town and back on the roads. Schools are open or about to open. Each of those affluent children is accompanied by 3.5 support staff in the form of nannies, au pairs, drivers, cooks and feeders or, in some cases, armed body guards. When Jack or Jill goes off to school so do lots of adults who attend them. Many attend private schools where there is no convenient bus or subway service. So they are SUVed to school. Result:

The result is that traffic here and in many other places is about to return to normal. Which is horrible. For us here it will get even worse after Labor Day when the VIPs without kids, and members of Congress are back in town.

NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

According to Hurricane-Facts.com, "Australians call hurricanes, willy-willies."

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