I'm flying to D.C., just in time for a blizzard. What can I expect?
January 19, 2016 2:48 PM   Subscribe

You are not my weatherman. I'll be in D.C. for tourist reasons from Weds. (tomorrow!) to Sunday evening. We will be using public transit to get around. How badly hosed will we be if a huge snowstorm come? Will anything (restaurants, museums) remain open?

This will be my first time in our nation's capital. We are prepared for flight delays on our return home, but it would be a bummer to be holed up in our tiny Air B&B with no food and nothing to do for two of our four days. The snow itself is not a worry (we come from the north, we have adequate boots and coats).
posted by chowflap to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd cancel and reschedule. Your airline and Airbnb should accommodate.

Do you really want to chance it?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:56 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

DC doesn't deal with snow well at all. I'd go get a day or so of emergency food supplies as soon as you get there. Unless it's an absolutely bonkers amount of snow things should start reopening on day two, but definitely be prepared for what you'd do if stores and museums are closed for a day. You should still be able to take the Metro and go walk around outdoor memorials in the snow, which could be quite pretty.
posted by MsMolly at 2:57 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

You're hosed. DC is going to shut down for this storm.
posted by juniperesque at 2:58 PM on January 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

Follow The Capital Weather Gang for the best weather info for the DC area.

Severe snowstorms are very disruptive in DC.

Where in DC are you staying, roughly (near what Metro stop)?
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:03 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We can't reschedule, as my partner is going down for a conference (Thurs-Fri). Closest Metro stop is Cleveland Park.
posted by chowflap at 3:06 PM on January 19, 2016

Cleveland Park will remain mostly open (restaurants and such) unless it's a much bigger storm than predicted--even in our 3+' storms a few years ago, many restaurants in areas such as that prided themselves on staying open even as the fed government shutdown. Some museums could be closed but some will remain open, the Smithsonian in particular tries to keep open as many as they can. But this is guess work from previous snow storms.
posted by skynxnex at 3:09 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hi from DC!

If you can change, you might want to. But if that's not easy, DC can actually be a lot of fun on a snow day. Bring full snow gear and tromp around seeing the monuments during the day.

You can get decent updates about places that are open on twitter, but also on EaterDC and DCist.

This is more true if you're walking distance to a metro station that's within the all-underground part of the metro system. (Parts of it are above-ground, and they, along with the metro buses, will likely close if we get more than 8-10 inches of snow.) ON PREVIEW - you're in the underground section, so Metro should keep running. )You're also a manageable walk to dupont circle.)

Bring really good outdoor clothing and come tromp around in the snow!
posted by mercredi at 3:10 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you are staying in DC proper within walking distance of some attractions and with access to a grocery store, I think you'll be OK! It'll be cold and not everything may be open but DC is a lovely city and worth visiting even in a snowstorm that shuts many things down. If you have good company and are flexible, just walking around the monuments and museums or wandering from bar to bar (whatever's open!) could be a delightful bonding experience. You might spend more time inside but that can be cozy, too.

Personally, I'd totally go! I say this as a DC native although I no longer live there. (Otherwise I'd offer to meet up, of course!) You may have to extend your trip due a delayed flight but that shouldn't be a problem if your hosts know in advance.
posted by smorgasbord at 3:10 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Well, it looks like I am in the minority but as long as the flight goes it sounds awesome.
Getting to walk around the city while it's empty with only other adventurous souls is awesome. There's always SOMEplace open and it's always feels extra fun and cozy when you find the port in the storm.
Less people will travel there leaving the possibility of everything open just fine and half of the visitors.
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:10 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well, I was the minority when I started writing my post!
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:11 PM on January 19, 2016

Yeah, DC doesn't handle snow well, but if you're stuck here, might as well make do! Was typing up a longer comment but on preview I agree with skynxnex (I live along the Red Line corridor and have generally had fewer snow-related issues with transit than friends in other neighborhoods) and just wanted to add that we Washingtonians like to have some fun with our snowstorms, including restaurant/bar specials, sledding, and snowball fights (meetup idea, anyone?)
posted by capricorn at 3:13 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I lived in DC for a while and one great thing about snowstorms there is that they're beautiful! Yes, a lot of places close. But some stay open. In neighborhoods like Cleveland Park, people go out walking around once the storm calms down (and before the snow melts to dirty slush) - to experience the natural beauty and chat with others. It would be a nice way for you to get a feel for the city, beyond being a tourist. Here's info on Metro snow service, which might be helpful.

Then again the blizzard this weekend is due to be historic. There may be power outages. So go and have fun, but be prepared. I like the idea of getting emergency supplies as soon as you arrive - candles, groceries, etc.
posted by mountainpeak at 3:17 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

I want to second what mountainpeak said: major snowstorms in DC are unusual and, therefore, can easily turned into shared adventures among residents! It'd be an excellent time to meet people and hang out with locals. So many people in DC are not originally from there, so people are used to meeting new people and making smalltalk. If people know your situation, they're generally going to be very accommodating, certainly sympathetic, and may even go out of their way to help you have a special trip despite the snow!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:22 PM on January 19, 2016

Keep an eye on the National Zoo: it's part of the Smithsonian, and if the weather gets bad the Zoo will be first one to close, because of the need to shelter and protect the animals. So: no guarantee that if the Zoo closes the rest of the Smithsonian museums will too, but the Zoo's the first domino to watch for.

Yeah, get some emergency food supplies in, just in case: better safe than sorry and all that.

As mentioned above, above-ground parts of the Metro subway system shut before the underground parts; that's because of the dangers of ice on the tracks. And some busses might be rerouted to avoid icy or unplowed roads.
posted by easily confused at 3:25 PM on January 19, 2016

Another hello from DC! I lived here during Snowmageddon and it was disruptive but not apocalyptic. Just be prepared and be flexible. If there are sites you have your heart set on seeing, definitely check those out as soon as you can. Agree that you should plan to get groceries and such just in case.

If you like taking pictures, this will be a good opportunity. DC is a beautiful city but it'll be even prettier in snow. Another thing is that people in the area can be really skittish about weather so places that are typically crowded (popular restaurants, for example) might be easier to access if they're open. And check out the Washington Post website and DCist - I think they usually have lists of places that are open as well as the aforementioned restaurant/bar specials.
posted by kat518 at 3:37 PM on January 19, 2016

It's also really likely that the forecasters are wrong, and the storm won't bring any snow. Come to DC and have a good time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone! I will be prepared for any outcome. I was in NYC right after a huge blizzard and it was one of the best times I've had there. Glad to hear that the museums may even be open.
posted by chowflap at 4:15 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's also really likely that the forecasters are wrong

Ehhh, I sort of doubt it with this one. CWG is known for under-hyping its storm predictions if anything, and even they think we're in for a big one.

Computer models, without exception, are forecasting over 10 inches of snow in the D.C. area with a few throwing around 20 inch plus numbers. We think there is at least a 50 percent chance of a foot of snow in the immediate area.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:52 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would just nth getting to the grocery store for supplies as soon as you arrive. I live in the area and was here during Snowmaggedon 2010 and being the impatient sort, who doesn't mind the snow and lives across the street from the grocery store, put off grocery shopping until the snow started (I had tried to go the a night or two before but it was too crowded for me), despite the fact that I only had an apple and some oatmeal at home. The grocery store was open, but it was as if I'd been beaten to the scene by folks preparing for a zombie apocalypse followed by a swarm of locusts. To say the shelves were bare is not an exaggeration. The delivery trucks (for the grocery store) made it through in the next day or so, so it's not like I was without food for days, but it would have been better with a bit more comfort food (and hot cocoa) on hand. I'd also bring a flashlight and some batteries, and anything else you might need should there be a power outage (not unlikely if things go in the direction that they're predicting).

Otherwise, I don't remember what stayed open (if anything) museum wise. But yes, DC is very pretty and quiet in the snow.
posted by kaybdc at 8:09 PM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you end up here, there's a local supermarket in Cleveland Park, as well as a Walgreens/CVS (and, should it be your speed, a liquor store with a really friendly staff) and restaurants that I bet will make a go of it unless things are really terrible. My (couple of years of) experience is that this part of town tends to generally do okay in outages, but DC's power company isn't great and is easily overwhelmed, so picking up a couple things that might make you more comfortable wouldn't be a bad idea.

If your partner's conference is at the Wardman Marriott, that neighborhood's very similar; walk out on Duke Ellington Bridge and see Rock Creek Park in the snow.

I bet the subways are going to keep moving on at least a snow schedule, but if you don't feel like fighting out of Cleveland Park and want to see Star Wars in an old-school theater, the Uptown's right there. Dupont Circle, a couple stops down the red line, often has a snowball fight. But yeah, get out and walk around, it's a nice city, and keep an eye on the sites mentioned above for snow day specials and such.

Have fun!
posted by jameaterblues at 9:15 PM on January 19, 2016

Welcome to DC, where we don't understand how to handle snow! Our lovely Chicago-hailing Commander in Chief teased us, during like the first year of his presidency, because we shut down over two inches. They are forecasting 8-12 inches (the chance of the storm passing is maybe 15% now) and it's going to be a wet, heavy snow, the kind that may take out power lines. I would bring or purchase anything to help you feel comfortable and fed in the event of an outage at your hotel. This includes a good sled.

The other commenters have you pretty covered but, for wintry, warm you up eats: We have a lot of fantastic ramen/noodle restaurants (Toki Underground, for one), the famous Ben's Chili Bowl, and plenty of Ethiopian (which if you have never tried, now is a good time).
posted by nightrecordings at 3:58 AM on January 20, 2016

Re: Smithsonian closures..... back when Snowmageddon hit in 2010, every Smithsonian in the area was closed for six straight days, Feb. 6th through the 11th. This meant both the National Air & Space Museum on the Mall as well as Udvar-Hazy Air & Space in Chantilly; Natural History, American History, the Freer, the National Zoo, and on and on, all closed. And believe me, they do not like to close, they have sometimes been open even when all local and state government offices and all schools districts around here have closed down --- apparently their thinking is that all those folks home from work or school for the day will want to go someplace.....

Unfortunately the local weather reports this morning are full of gleeful meteorologists all saying 10-12 "or more!!!".
posted by easily confused at 5:28 AM on January 20, 2016

Hi, I live on Capitol Hill, a beautiful place to walk in the snow during "the blue hour"! And I mean the 'hood, not the Capitol itself, although that of course is lovely, too. Everyone outside in the snow gets super friendly, beyond typical interactions.

I would not count on Metro being open, nor museums, and I would absolutely go to a grocery or a CVS for food at the earliest possible moment. And don't count on much being available. I think a lot of people stuck inside entertain themselves (and their kids!) by cooking, baking, and eating. Fine pursuits, each one, but crazy-making at the stores.

(That leads to traffic issues like the last big storm when, per news reports, lady drove out to get just the right Gruyere cheese for her onion soup. Idiotic.)

Don't expect walks and paths to be shoveled or streets to be plowed, either. This makes walking pretty hard. I live two blocks from the Capitol, and during Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse my block and those around it were unattended for a week or so.

Bring full-on waterproof or water-resistant pants for walking. (As fellow Northerners, you know that, of course, but still.) If you crazy kids come to town, have fun!
posted by jgirl at 6:34 AM on January 20, 2016

Easilyconfused and jgirl both raise excellent points. You may want to make sure you have ice cleats for your snow boots (I once even saw a woman here go flying by on actual snow shoes). The museums and metro are a crapshoot but if you can walk somewhere open, do. Just call ahead to confirm any place is open.

Worst case scenario, make a trip to visit our wonderful city again this year when the weather is more moderate? October is nice.

If Uber is available (unsure how their drivers are going to be feeling, but they may be out there in the snow anyway!) and you feel comfortable with the idea, maybe have them give you a driving tour? You'd get a more intimate local's perspective. This is also contingent on the roads being plowed timely... Or at all.
posted by nightrecordings at 9:04 AM on January 20, 2016

If you have cross country skis, bring them! The Mall and the Capitol Grounds are great for that!
posted by jgirl at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2016

And the sidewalks and streets will be as well!
posted by jgirl at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2016

Hope you got in safely! If you haven't yet, I'd reach out now to your airbnb host to find out whether extending your stay is a possibility if your flight is cancelled Sunday (and possibly Monday, or even later...), and if not to start sizing up a Plan B.

Here's the aforementioned Capital Weather Gang's summary of the 2010 storm, including some specifics on how it affected Metro, museums, airports, etc.. Here's CWG's Twitter feed so it's handy, and as mentioned above, DCist should be very useful about who's open around the Cleveland Park metro station (including Brookville grocery, and don't forget the zoo!) as the weekend progresses. Hope you have a wonderful, memorable (and cozy) visit.
posted by argonauta at 3:55 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

They have just announced that the Metro train and Metro bus systems will be out of service all weekend:


The buses stop running at 5pm on Friday; the trains stop running at 11pm on Friday. They hope to re-open on Monday, but aren't promising it.
posted by theatro at 1:26 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

All Smithsonian museums are closing early today/Friday, and will remain closed Saturday and Sunday. No word yet for after that.
posted by easily confused at 8:47 AM on January 22, 2016

I'm writing to say hello and that I hope you are faring well in DC and having a good visit despite the storm!
posted by smorgasbord at 1:08 PM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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