January 28th, 2009
12:38 PM ET
6 months ago

Obama mocks Washington's winter panic

Congress is surrounded.
Congress is surrounded.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Despite ambitious post-9/11 security measures, Washington does remain alarmingly vulnerable to one recurring airborne threat: the humble snowflake.

DC residents are used to derision from chillier quarters of the country over their city’s occasional paralysis in the face of winter weather. After a few inches of snow and some early morning sleet in the first half of the week resulted in a wave of Washington-area shutdowns, the city’s most famous Midwestern transplant couldn’t resist a dig or two at his new hometown’s expense.

"My children's school was canceled today, because of what? Some ice," President Obama told a group of business leaders visiting the White House Wednesday.

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago school is never canceled," he said, adding that his daughter Sasha observed that schoolchildren there would even have recess outdoors.

The president joked that he would have to instill some “flinty Chicago toughness” into his neighbors. "When it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don't seem to be able to handle things.”

That lesson may have to wait for the next winter storm: after a late-day wave of precipitation, DC's forecast for tomorrow is sunny, with highs in the upper 30s.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. cnnnewser

    I was watching – and I don't consider it as a "mock." He was joking becaue of his daughters saying the weather in Chicago was much worse.
    Stop being so nit picky!!

    January 28, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  2. Sue

    I am from the Chicago Suburbs and can remember that school was canceled once in the late 80's and that was due to extreme sub zero wind chills. Now, I live in Texas and cannot believe how the city closes down for a very little ice.

    January 28, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. Carol, NJ

    Val in MA
    Dictatorship for saying that schools should not close schools and businesses for a 2 inches of snow? You don't know what dictatorship is! We pay very high taxes to send our kids to school, and we consistently get a school closing for a couple of inches of snow in NJ. My company opened today, though. I don't understand why the public offices have to close. There is no "individualism" in this. These are different times and we all have to start working harder if we want to get out of this economic mess.

    January 28, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. Blue in NC

    Welcome to the South, Mr. Obama. We don't get snow often, but when we do, we stay home and enjoy it. Maybe that tradition can help to explain why you didn't include any Southerners in your "diverse" cabinet. (I still love you, though.)

    January 28, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  5. Brooke

    Having grown up in Phila I am used to things getting shut down because of a heavy frost!!! Now I live where getting 6 inches is considered a dusting!

    January 28, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. Kyle

    You people are idiots. The reason they close the schools is because of the buses transporting the THOUSANDS of students on teh nations busiest highways. There are millions of cars, millions of people and oh yeah – they don't spend thousands of dollards on teh salt to get the highways, side streets, other side streets, and neighborhood streets.

    Reality check folks. I

    January 28, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  7. Anna, Missouri

    I am a transplant to SW Missouri after growing up in Nebraska. Every road in the county that I live in is paved, and schools close every year at the first drop of sleet, or if we get more than an inch of snow. They bus most of the kids to school, even the ones that live in town of approximately 12,000 people. They do not know what salt is down here. Not only do the schools close, so do most businesses because they do not salt the roads or streets. Last year, after everything had been shut down for about the fourth day in a row, a radio announcer interviewed someone from the road maintenance department and he said he had not received any complaints. Needless to say, his phone started ringing before he even left the interview. Our local govenment in action. Totally rediculous!!!

    January 28, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    We used to laugh because they would cancel schools in north Texas because it "MIGHT" snow the next day. Usually it never did and the kids just got a day off and the parents had to hustle to find child care while they were at work. (Work never seemed to get canceled no matter what the weather report was.)

    January 28, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. mco

    Oh get over yourselves and lighten up.

    January 28, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    This is hardly "mocking." Mocking is usually more serious and degrading.

    This was just some light-hearted fun.

    Too bad the MEDIA doesn't have a collective sense of humor.

    January 28, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  11. Eric in Houston

    DC is not the only capitol city that cannot deal with snow. I have seen the same thing in London and Brussels. Even Detroit, with its poor economic condition, does better. I live in Houston now and we had a recent, rare snowfall, and people basically ignored it. Snow happens, even as far south as Texas, and municipalities should be prepared to deal with it.

    January 28, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  12. Realist.

    Hate him all you want, he is our president. If you don't like it, leave town.

    January 28, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. gram

    Spent 23 yrs in MI, only time school was closed was wind chill -27F.
    Grew up in MD...School closed when school busses couldn't navigate the roads.
    Now live in GA....snowed 3X in 11 yrs...stores were out of bread, milk, and snowshovels, with 2" on the ground.

    January 28, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. President Obama

    To Gretta,

    Maybe Sasha and Malia would like to go to school rather than "do fun things". Some children like school.

    January 28, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  15. Todd - Grand Rapids, Mi.

    I live in Michigan, and I am looking out the window at a foot plus of snow on the ground. I have to laugh my a– off when I read some of these drama queen comments of "Obama insulting his new neighbors". Get real some of you people..............a little snow in Washington is not like a little snow in Arizona. Toughen up eastern folks. It snows frequently enough in DC that it shouldnt look THAT foreign...LOL

    January 28, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. Shari, NY

    Someone from Helsinki, Finland blogged that it was some 90 degrees below zero and schools were wide open. DC's climate is different from Chicago's. The Obama girls are now learning first hand.

    January 28, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. mike

    Hey Brian, do you think you could get a law degree, get elected to the Senate and then to the presidency? Maybe you should think twice about who you call a moron. Perhaps the person who managed to slide their FWD Honda Odyssey into a tree?

    January 28, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. Nothing ever Changes

    I think the President has a point, I live at 4500 feet above sea level, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The snow Washington is getting is nothing, they are measuring in inches, we measure in feet. Our winter storms have winds in excess of 60 to 70 miles per hour, 100 plus on the ridge tops, white out conditions, drifting snow, trucks blown over and this is just a basic winter storm, the big storms are even worse.

    Our highest pass sets at over 9,000 ft, try driving that during a winter storm, a trip that would normally take twenty minutes can take up to six hours. Our snow plows run twenty four hours a day during a winter storm, they hot seat the plows, drivers do twelve hour shifts, I should know I work for DOT. Get over it Washington, stop crying over a little white stuff.

    January 28, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. Snow Bunny

    Yes, it is a matter of preparedness. I lived in Cincinnati for a short time, after living in northern Ohio most of my life, and was astounded at the way everyone freaked out whenever more than an inch of snow fell.

    That said, what Obama said was a joke, and I'm sure the Washington DC road people were quick to tell him just why they had to close everything down. Who knows, maybe he'll give them more snow moving equipment and they'll be able to keep the schools open in bad weather! Good for teaching, although the kids will be disappointed...

    And actually, Sasha and Malia are very bright kids who seem to like school – they were probably frustrated that they couldn't go!

    January 28, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Felonious Monk

    May be I missed something. How is this news?

    January 28, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. TN

    No joke, our school system closes for too much rain, it's too cold and the 'chance' of snow. It's ridiculous.

    January 28, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  22. matt

    Please do not add anything Chicago to anyone in Washington...haven't we seen the effects of Chicago style anything so far....

    January 28, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  23. Leo D, PA

    This is the greatest country in the world; where, you can let others in-
    on what is happening. It is a winter mix here in NEPA and you can be
    having a great time, depending on how you look at the situation. My
    snowblower has froze up since I last used it, so sitting by a warm woodburner and reading what is happening in your nations capitol is
    something special. Just being able to email CNN is a privilege that we
    have available to us. President Obama is looking for suggesions and
    maybe we can be heard via the internet on supporting "the right stuff".

    January 28, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  24. Oh My!!

    If all the children in the area would be provided the same secure transportation that the President;s children are receiving, I would think the schools should stay open. But........that is not possible.
    So if he wants his children to go to school when it snows...then send them to a Chicago school!

    January 28, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Chicagoan

    To all of those that say Chicago is well-equipped to handle snow and sleet, that may be the case, no arguing that. However, sometimes the snow comes down so quickly and is so heavy that our "well-equipped" snow plows simply cannot keep up. Usually there is already several inches of snow on the ground before the snow plows even come around. That being said, safety of the children should come first and if it truly was a safety issue then the the schools were rightfully closed. I still think they're a bunch of wimps, but understand their position. It just irritates me to hear people complain of a dusting of snow and temps in the 30s when Chicago has had near record breaking cold and record breaking snow fall this year, and my daughter and I have yet to take a snow day! All Obama is saying is they could use some toughening up, Chicagoans find a way to make it to work and school through a foot of snow and freezing temps, and that's no walk in the park!

    January 28, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
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