Snowpocalypse Contingency Plans?

As mentioned previously, I’m giving a talk at the University of Maryland, College Park this Thursday, Feb 4 at 3:30 pm in the Lecture Hall (room 1110) in the Kim Engineering Building. The title of the talk is “Talking to My Dog About Science: Why Public Communication of Science Matters, and How Weblogs Can Help”– stop by if you’re in the area.

I’ll be in the DC area on Friday as well, doing some other stuff, and I don’t leave until Saturday. Unfortunately, the DC area is forecast to get heavy snow on Friday into Saturday, and given the way that part of the country gets its knickers in a twist over eight flakes of snow, I can probably expect total paralysis right around the time I’m supposed to be leaving. (This is not one of the things I miss about living in the DC area…)

The problem is, I’m not really sure what I can do about this. At this point, I’m not willing to eat the cost of re-booking plane tickets to an earlier flight, if that can even be done. And it’s not clear what, if anything, I can do about the back end of the trip, weather being famously unpredictable. With my luck, I’d arrange another night in a hotel, only to have the storm fizzle out.

I know I have a bunch of readers in the DC area, and others who are experienced travelers, so I’ll throw this out to you all: What should I do, in terms of contingency plans for the Snowpocalypse 2010? I’m flying in and out of BWI, and staying Thursday and Friday in College Park, if that makes a difference (is BWI more or less snow-competent than the other area airports?).

Comments

  1. #1 Evan Berkowitz
    February 2, 2010

    It’s …already snowing in DC. Strong potential for campus to be closed tomorrow.

  2. #2 Tamara
    February 2, 2010

    BWI itself is not bad, but the highway could be a serious problem. I’d book the extra night.

    (Tamara in Rockville)

  3. #3 Mandrake
    February 3, 2010

    @1 Back in my days on campus (1985-89), campus was rarely closed for snow. I think I recall one day. These days, it closes much more often with much less snow.

    The local aiports don’t close often, but they will experience delays. The trip between campus and BWI is essentially all highway (including a choice between 95 and the BW Parkway), so your chances of escaping are better than from other places. I haven’t heard any specific predictions yet, other than “the potential” for very significant snowfall. Our two-footer back in December was handled pretty well, I thought, although some of the more recent and lesser snowfalls (like last Saturday) seemed to cause a disproportionate amount of disruption. I’d probably just keep my original plans. If the weather is so bad and no one is coming or going, I’m sure you could just stay in the hotel another night. Or you could call ahead and extend your reservation. I don’t think you’d get dinged if you leave early.

    If you get a chance while you’re on campus, please trek over to Frederick Hall, my dorm. I think I left a pair of socks in the closet.

  4. #4 Jamie
    February 3, 2010

    They’re not calling for a few flakes this weekend, they’re calling for a foot, which considering that yesterday’s ‘up to an inch’ became six to eight when all was said and done, you might need to dig a tunnel to go outside come Saturday morning.

  5. #5 Jamie
    February 3, 2010

    Mandrake: Saturday’s snowfall caused disproportionate problems because we weren’t supposed to get more than a dusting, so there was no pretreatment of the roads, and the plows weren’t out and ready to start cleanup once it began. Instead we got just under six inches with no warning.

  6. #6 rhett
    February 3, 2010

    Did you ever see the movie “Planes Trains and Automobiles”?

  7. #7 Eric Lund
    February 3, 2010

    If you’re flying BWI-ALB, you’re probably on Southwest. They have a reputation for not letting a little snow bother them–in Manchester they run as nearly a normal schedule as they can even when other airlines are freaking out and delaying or canceling all of their flights due to snow. Your flight may be delayed, but short of a BWI closure it will operate. Getting to the airport will be your problem.

    If you do feel that it is necessary to change your flight, it’s relatively easy to do that on Southwest. They may charge you the fare difference depending on circumstances, but they have no fees for changing a reservation even if you bought the super-duper cheap fare. I know several people who will fly Southwest whenever possible for exactly that reason.

  8. #8 katydid13
    February 3, 2010

    What are your plans for getting to/from the airport? The shuttles services can cancel at the drop of a hat, but if you are planning to take a cab, public transit or rent a car you should be fine, assuming you allow extra time.

    The main problem isn’t the major roads, which they do a somewhat decent job of plowing, it’s that lots of side streets never get plowed which is what shuts things down.

    I think BWI is a little better in major snow that National. Part of that is that at National they can run out of places to put the snow when they plow.

  9. #9 katydid13
    February 3, 2010

    They are now calling for between 12 and 20 inches. 20 inches of snow in like 12 hours would tax the snow removal abilities of even places like Minneapolis. If we get 20 inches I’m less confident of much of anything functioning. They can’t keep the metro rails clear of that much snow.

  10. #10 Michael I
    February 3, 2010

    Think BWI is reasonably good at dealing with snowfall, although that isn’t going to help you much if the snow is at the upper range of possibilities.

    Probably won’t be delayed more than a day, however. I have flown out of BWI the day after a major snowstorm.

    For what it’s worth the Washington Post’s Capital Weather gang estimated probabilities as of right now is 10% for less than 2 inches, 20% 2-6 inches, 35% 6-12 inches, 35% 12+ inches. They also suggest that the probability of 12+ inches is 5-10% higher north and west of the Beltway. Note that their guesstimates have shifted a bit toward the higher end in the last couple of hours.

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