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Huge Snowstorms Deserve Nicknames

March 1st, 2019 by dk

I’ve forgotten which winter storm first endeared me to Washington, DC. It was either “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse.” It doesn’t really matter which. Washington gives its major storms nicknames, and that’s really the point of this column.

So if you’re pressed for time, you can skip the rest. But you’re not pressed for time, because our own storms are limiting what you can — or feel obligated to — do. That’s also my point.

We’re a college town, through and through. Many of us wish we were back in school this week, just so we wouldn’t have to go. Snow days gave us our first taste of liberation. It tasted like hot chocolate. Sometimes it still does.

I grew up in Chicago, where snowstorms were common, but snow days were not. We gave prodigious storms names like “January” or “Last Tuesday” — not very clever. So it was new for me when a monster storm with a nickname descended on Washington, DC about a decade ago.

The storm stopped everything — or almost everything. All work stopped. Traffic stopped too, which is the closest Washington gets to a miracle. We all had iPhones and Twitter — both new to us. We wanted to use them. Word got around of a flash mob snowball fight at Dupont Circle. I went.

I stood on a park bench to take a video of the scene. A snowball from behind hit my phone cleanly out of my upstretched hands. Suddenly, I was part of the scramble, calling for help to find my (white!) iPhone in the drifts around me. It had disappeared.

There were many twists and turns to the story, but an hour later, I used a borrowed phone to call my number. A young man named Jerod was in line at McDonalds with a woman he had recently met.

“Your phone is ringing,” she said.

“That’s not my ringtone,” he replied.

“Then your pocket is ringing.” He answered the phone that had fallen into his army jacket during the melee.

I raced to McDonalds to meet the man with my inadvertently intercepted iPhone. He wouldn’t accept a reward. He wouldn’t even let me pay for their hot chocolate. Snowstorms and hot chocolate just seem to bring out the best in people.

It was days later when I realized that the video I was taking had captured the whole thing. The snowball fight, carefully panning the scene. Jerod entering a corner of the screen. Then the view topples and turns, going mostly dark. But the audio continues, featuring my plaintive wails. “Has anyone seen my phone? Please help me find my phone!” It was all captured from the dark safety of Jerod’s puffy pocket.

You have stories from these storms. Shoveling with a garden hoe. A modernized snowman. Barbecuing meat rescued from an unpowered freezer. Glamping around candles and natural light. Learning your neighbor’s name, after all these years.

Certain things can be done differently when they need to be. Anything that’s different is bound to make a good story. And the stories will last longer if the precipitating event had been given a memorable nickname.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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