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Muriel Bowser came to Barracks Row to test her administration’s snow response, and the Southeast neighborhood delivered. Nearing the corner of D and 8th streets SE with an entourage, Bowser stopped to point out a vacant storefront, only to discover a homeless woman curled in the doorway.
Bowser pivoted—-a favorite word for her new administration—-and told a staffer to give the woman information on city services.
While the District’s homeless shelters are reportedly holding up under the cold, the District’s more ordinary responsibility in a snowstorm—-actually clearing the snow—-didn’t come off as well. Morning commuters faced gridlock and slush, only five days into what should be Bowser’s mayoral honeymoon.
The snow outage even affected the new mayor’s plans. After the storm knocked out power and heat at the Reeves Center, Bowser’s staff had to hastily relocate her snow press conference to the District Department of Transportation’s M St. SE office.
Bowser, who in different circumstances could have been soaking in the glow of successfully plowed city streets, had to promise to consider changes instead. While she stopped short of regretting the decision to keep schools running on regular hours, Bowser conceded that the response to the “relatively minor storm” wasn’t what she wanted. “I’m not satisfied with the level of traffic backup that we had,” Bowser said.
(Speaking of regrets, Bowser says she doesn’t regret voting against Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh‘s bill to make it easier to fine snow shoveling scofflaws).
Department of Public Works boss Bill Howland blamed the sluggish response on unpredictable weather. Expecting an inch or two of snow, the District received three or four inches instead. The weather was also colder than expected, making salt less effective.
“The biggest thing was expectations were one thing, and what reality was was totally different,” Howland says.
Photo by Will Sommer