Recent Storms Test Locals’ Preparation, Patience

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Preparing for a record blizzard seemed to be uncharted territory for local residents. The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is used to snowfalls, but preparing for this year’s record deluge proved to be a huge challenge for officials, residents and businesses alike.

Kia Williams, 27, of Northeast Washington said she was shocked by the magnitude of the snow storm. She had had much difficulty believing the predicted totals of meteorologists.

“Initially I thought [the snowfall predictions] were exaggerated,” said Williams. “Living in the D.C. area, it’s rare we see that much snow and the local weather men aren't always the most reliable. As the days got closer and the forecast became more accurate I began to get nervous.”

The reality of the situation set in for Williams and she realized that time for hunkering down had come. Williams, like many other area residents, made the trek to the grocery store and was amazed by what she saw.

“It was insane,” she said. “Every piece of meat was gone the Friday morning before the first round of snow. Surprisingly, the store was stocked with the necessities such as milk, eggs, bread, and fruit, but everything else was pretty much cleared out.

“There were lines outside the exit doors for the exiting shoppers carts and parking was a hassle, but somehow people were in good spirits. People were very respectful of the elderly shoppers by helping them with groceries or letting them move up in line. I stood in line for about 45 minutes and chatted with the folks in my line. It really became a bonding experience with the other shoppers.”

In a winter for the ages, Jamie Miller, public affairs manager for Giant Food, said their business has boomed.

“Whenever there’s a forecast for snow, the supermarket business does well,” Miller said. “Certainly, there’s been an uptick in our business because of the snow.”

Ensuring that necessities were available took large scale planning, however, she said. “On the Thursday and Friday before the first storm and Monday and Tuesday of last week, we were doing around the clock deliveries to our stores,” Miller said. “We had additional truck drivers working and were able to get quite a bit of product out to our stores leading up to the storms.”

In particular, Miller said, items in high demand were bread, milk, eggs, bottled water, batteries, and snow melt. Those “staples,” as he termed them, were the consistent traffic generators for his store.

Hardware stores such as Lowes and the Home Depot had to prepare as well.

“Generally, the demand was high already especially for shovels, generators and ice melts,” said Jennifer King, spokeswoman for the Home Depot. “Throughout the storm, we were doing everything we could and we still are trying to get product to the stores that have been impacted.”

King said the weather forced the Home Depot to use judicious methods to keep its local stores stocked with items.

“Our supply chain and merchandising teams have done a great job to get product, by transfer, from different stores across the country to the stores that need them most,” she said. “I know that they‘ve been working around the clock to get products transferred as quickly as possible.”

Although the company did its best to keep shelves stocked, King admitted, there were instances where people had to wait for products. However, she said that no major problems had been reported at any stores.

While preparing for the storm was one challenge, recovering from it is another.

Area residents are still digging their way out of last week’s storm, which dumped at least 6 more inches on top of a previous snowfall. All totaled, some 27 inches of snow accumulated in the District.

Some residents like Bernice Rink are chastising their leaders for the perceived slowness of the progress. Rink said District Mayor Adrian Fenty should have been faster in calling for federal help, noting that because sidewalks had remained uncovered, many residents were forced to walk in the streets.

“Citizens walking in the streets is a great safety issue as well as a great liability for the District,” Rink wrote.

But resident Byron Tyler saw things differently. He had nothing but praise for the “quick” timeline in which many roadways in the District had been cleared. “I give him particular kudos,” Tyler to the {AFRO} on Friday. “I think the job or removing the snow from the streets this time, compared to Maryland, was done in a spectacular, expeditious manner.” He continued, “Fenty deserves credit because despite the inconvenience of the heavy snow, he made sure residents were still able to move around shortly after and take care of their business.”

Tyler may be the only one with such sentiments. Many, like Williams, were stuck inside for days after the blizzard and had to find myriad ways to keep themselves entertained.

“Since I'm a student, I got a lot of reading and studying done,” Williams said. “Of course, I watched the news, cleaned up the house, watched tons of movies, caught up on e-mails, downloaded music, and ate and slept a lot.”

Those activities quickly lost their allure, however, and a winter-weary Williams said she is ready for the snowy season to end.

“I don’t necessarily enjoy being trapped in the house for days,” she said. “My main concern now is to stay on top of the news to see when it will all be over.”

Dorothy Rowley contributed to this report.