Snowstorm Defeatism

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JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 10, 2010

Snowstorm Defeatism

"I realize there are lots of problems that cannot be solved just by throwing money at them," writes Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein, "but snow removal is not one of them. We have the know-how, we have the technology and we have the money and economic self-interest to do it right."

I'm not certain this is true. Oh, sure, at the extreme, we could spend a lot of money and clear out all the snow. But, as I watch my home and everything that surrounds it disappear under a white mountain, I'm wondering if this problem can be realistically solved by anything short of warm weather.

In my neighborhood, like much of Washington, people park along the street. When it snows, plows go down and shove the snow away from the middle of the street and toward the sides. When it snows large amounts, the plows create massive snow barriers between the cars and the street. Digging out one's car becomes a huge task. You have to scoop all the snow off the car itself, around the perimeter of the car, and this is just a tiny warm-up to the major task, when you have to breach the snow wall so that your car can get out to the street. This is even harder than it sounds. Every shovelful has to be carried back form the middle of the street and deposited on the front lawn.

Before the latest snowfall, the barriers in my street stood at around three or four feet. When the plow comes, they're just going to get bigger. The nearly-intractable problem here is that there's simply no place to put the snow. All the spare space along the side of the street is taken up by parked cars. The snow has nowhere to go.

One part of the solution is to truck the snow away to a remote location. Washington is already beginning to do this. With enough money to hire enough trucks and equipment, the government could probably remove all the snow. But this is a massive project that would take an unthinkable commitment to finish. I'm wondering if I'll see my office again until spring, or spring-like weather.

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posted in: jonathan chait, washington, washington post, steven pearlstein

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