Federal government offices in Washington, D.C. shut down on Tuesday because of a snowstorm that basically didn't happen. America, you should be embarrassed.
The Wire decided to see what it would take for Canadian Parliament, the legislative body of our more snow-adept neighbors to the north, to close because of a snowstorm, and the answer is: it doesn't. We spoke with multiple Canadian federal government employees who wouldn't speak on the record because they're that polite . They don't want to offend anyone, especially Americans. But the overwhelming message was, nothing like today would happen up there, despite more extreme weather being more common.
Part of the reason is because, unlike in the U.S., the Canadian federal government, especially in Ottawa, is so fractured and bureaucratic that the decision to close does not lie with one person. It's not run like a school board. One federal employee explained that each department makes its own decision on a "case-by-case basis" whether the elements are extreme enough to close for the day. Closing the entire Canadian federal government in one fell swoop is literally impossible.
Beyond that simple fact, though, it just doesn't happen. None of the people who spoke to us could remember a time in the last, say, five years when federal government offices were significantly shuttered because of a snowstorm. “I believe strongly that each department probably has a policy that if the weather gets seriously dangerous then people make their own judgement call if they can come to work,” explained a friend who has lived and worked in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill, for more than five years. “Those who can work from home would... but no official announcement would be made. I've never heard of offices being closed in Ottawa due to nasty weather, and we've had some doozy storms in the past few years.”
"I've never heard of Parliament shutting down for a snowstorm, ever," another person told me.
I am Canadian, which means I'm also a Snow Lord, giving me the right to laugh in Washington's face for its pathetic fear of a measly two inches of snow. This is not enough snow to warrant shutting down government offices, or school, or anything, really. It goes without saying that I survived walking to school, everyday, uphill both ways, in two inches of snow. Those damned bureaucrats in their town cars have nothing to fear.
But, look! The D.C. police force is very worried. Call your mom to let her know you're safe, stock up on bread and water, make sure the generator's hooked up to TV and internet so Netflix is a go, batten your hatches, they say.
Traffic Advisory/Dress for the weather/Wear several layers of loose-fitting/lightweight/warm clothing rather than 1 layer of heavy clothing.— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) December 10, 2013
Traffic Advisory: Keep your gas tank as full as possible.— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) December 10, 2013
Traffic Advisory: Walk slowly and carefully— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) December 10, 2013
Clear all the snow and ice from your vehicle’s hood, roof, windows and lights before driving.— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) December 10, 2013
Other advice your mother gives during a snowstorm that D.C. police forgot: please remember to tuck your mittens into your coat, wear your long johns your uncle Peter bought for you, and keep our face covered. You don't wanna catch a cold.
There are approximately 2,578 snowflakes present in this one snapshot of a D.C. road taken around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, which was, admittedly, taken after the storm was finished. "Snow is now rapidly concluding west of I-95, and should be over everywhere in the region by 12:30 p.m.," The Washington Post reported just before noon. Look at all the snow on D.C. roads. Seems pretty dangerous, if you're blind, or if your car tires are flat rubber doughnuts with no grips. The snow didn't even accumulated in the yards.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.