Some more pleas for realistic expectations: Ryan Avent chimes in on the economics of it all, and Jon Chait notes the basic, physical problem with dealing with so much snow in such a short period of time:
In my neighborhood, like much of Washington, people park along the street. When it snows, plows go down and shove the snow away from the middle of the street and toward the sides. When it snows large amounts, the plows create massive snow barriers between the cars and the street. Digging out one’s car becomes a huge task. You have to scoop all the snow off the car itself, around the perimeter of the car, and this is just a tiny warm-up to the major task, when you have to breach the snow wall so that your car can get out to the street. This is even harder than it sounds. Every shovelful has to be carried back form the middle of the street and deposited on the front lawn.
Before the latest snowfall, the barriers in my street stood at around three or four feet. When the plow comes, they’re just going to get bigger. The nearly-intractable problem here is that there’s simply no place to put the snow. All the spare space along the side of the street is taken up by parked cars. The snow has nowhere to go.
One part of the solution is to truck the snow away to a remote location. Washington is already beginning to do this. With enough money to hire enough trucks and equipment, the government could probably remove all the snow. But this is a massive project that would take an unthinkable commitment to finish. I’m wondering if I’ll see my office again until spring, or spring-like weather.
This is the crux of the issue. Where is it going to go? Who’s going to move it? Any solution requires participation from the city’s residents.
Gabe Klein agrees – where is it going to go? Dr. Gridlock’s blog has some good notes on the challenges:
“This is no longer just a plow operation,” said Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation. “There is too much snow accumulation on some streets for the plows to adequately move the snow, the snow has to be physically removed and hauled away. This will add some time to our cleanup efforts but we have crews working around-the-clock to minimize how long and to assist us in being as efficient as possible.”
In addition to 250 to 270 pieces of equipment for plowing and treating roadways, the city has deployed specialized equipment such as backhoes, frontloaders, dump trucks, and dumpsters.
Dumpsters, eh? Sounds unorthodox. Speaking of unorthodox…
Snow removal tools, realistic and not: The City Paper has some great suggestions for makeshift snow removal tools – but missed one of the obvious ones I’ve seen out there – the dustpan. In previous snow storms, I’ve seen cutting boards and spatulas making their way from the kitchen to the front yard. Still, that’s not as sweet as the flamethrower option (appropriately tagged under ‘cool shit‘).
Don’t bring the grill inside: Just don’t do it. Seriously.
And then there’s this: