Washington knows how to shovel it!

Monday - 11/7/2011, 2:00am EST

Roughly 13 of every 100 federal government employees lives, works and votes in the metro Washington area. That includes the District of Columbia, cities and counties in Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland — some of the richest counties in the nation — and a little bit of West Virginia.

Because it is so big — it bumps Pennsylvania on the north, middle-Virginia on the south climate conditions vary a lot. It has mountains to the west, and the massive Chesapeake Bay and even bigger Atlantic Ocean to the east. There are parts of West Virginia and western Maryland with Canadian-like weather and plants and trees. Weather experts say there are a number of micro-climates. Result, very different weather (sleet here, blizzard there) on the same day.

Bottom line is that it is easier to call the weather in Phoenix, or Minneapolis, than here.

The huge government presence, our interesting climate zones and other factors make deciding whether and when to shutdown the government the equivalent of Mission Impossible.

When the government does shutdown because of snow D.C. is ridiculed in beyond-the-beltway spots where people know how to handle snow. When the government doesn't shutdown people who endure six hour commutes, or who get injured, demand that heads roll. Friday's column was about the newly revised shelter-in-place policy. It applies to snowstorms and emergencies (like a terrorist attack).

So what do feds who live and work in the center of the bulls' eye think about it. Here goes:

  • What could possibly go wrong? How about an OPM Director who most likely lives in Virginia south of DC, whose weather is possibly radically different than those of us who live in Gaithersburg or points north and telework is not an option. They could live 50 or more miles south and while we are getting dumped with 20 inches of snow, they are getting a dusting and think, "Hey, not too bad to go to work. Should be an easy commute". Todd, Gaithersburg, Md

  • "I have questions regarding the snow policy, like have you heard what the plan is for the blue collar workers. My husband is a federal blue collar worker who does not have the option of teleworking when the government is shut down. He is a federal government bus driver and he has been told that when the government is shut down that he still has to be at work to drive the bus. What is wrong with this picture?

    If the government is shut down or teleworking, why should my husband and his co-workers be risking their lives on dangerous roads driving empty buses or buses with one or two people who are riding government buses to catch a ride home." Ann, Bus Drivers Wife

  • I have always thought that my fellow federal government workers are total weather wimps. They are glued to their T V on the night of a storm, hoping against hope they will be given the day off. Or they complain about coming to work in 'dangerous' conditions and complain when they are released early in 'dangerous conditions.' Here's an idea. Stay home. On your own dime. Take a day of annual leave. Workers nearly always have the option to take unexecused or unplanned leave during an emergency. Stop sitting around, crying, in hopes that you will get a one or two day paid vacation. Show a little initiative. No wonder the general public dislikes us." Hal in Herndon, Va.

NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Is it safe to eat snow? Well, snow contains bacteria, but so does everything around us, according to a Smithsonian blog post. The post outlines some creative snow treats, such as snow cream and snow margarita. Ultimately, "there's no consensus on resolving this deep matter. Eat snow at your own risk. Just make sure it's white."


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