Jon Elswick/AP
National Park Service employee Phillip Bradley clears snow at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday in Washington. A slow-moving storm blanketed swaths of the mid-Atlantic with nearly 2 feet of snow.

Federal government closed today but Redskins game must go on

The federal government closed today because of the weekend blizzard, but the snow won't stop the Washington Redskins from battling the New York Giants at FedEx Field on Monday night.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail … shall stop Monday Night Football.

The federal government? That’s another story.

The Washington Redskins will battle the New York Giants at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Monday night as scheduled, despite a weekend snowstorm – already dubbed the blizzard of ’09 – that dumped up to two feet of snow on parts of the capital region.

With the coveted berth on primetime national television in the balance, Redskins groundsmen removed 25 million pounds of snow from their home field and stadium seating to ensure that the show will go on.

Apparently not so urgent, on the other hand, was the need to keep the federal government operating. The Washington region’s 320,000 federal employees (excluding the Postal Service) got a snow day Monday. And with most of the region’s public school systems closed as well, Monday promised to be a day when federal workers – and a good number of private-sector employees as well – would trade the office for makeshift sled runs at neighborhood parks.

Of course not all of Washington came to a standstill. The Senate managed to call a procedural vote on healthcare reform Sunday night – much to the chagrin of many Senate Republicans, who had wondered if the Big Snow wasn’t divine intervention – that puts the Senate on track to pass its reform package by Christmas.

President Obama was snowed in at the (very) White House Sunday, and the first family was said to be enjoying the winter wonderland around them. But being from Chicago, the Obama girls were presumably not as impressed by the mountainous drifts as Washington area children, for whom the record December snow was a thing of awe.

And awesome snowball fights, side-street snowboarding, and igloo-building.

Most private businesses had reopened in downtown Washington by Monday morning, but pedestrian traffic was noticeably light. Outside the trendy Andre Chreky hair salon on the normally lobbyist-thick K Street, a snowman held a hand-lettered sign informing the few passers-by: “Yes, we’re open!”

But with much of the capital’s business and many holiday parties canceled, the demand for fancy hairdos appeared to be off, too.

Some Washingtonians were in awe of New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Sunday that all roads would be cleared by Sunday night, and schools would open as scheduled Monday. Others showed pity for local authorities and reminded critics that the snowfall, while only a few inches above the norm for New York, posed a once-in-a-decade challenge to the Washington area.

Even Redskins’ officials, unaccustomed to the volume of snow, consulted colleagues at the Denver Broncos, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Buffalo Bills, and the New England Patriots, for tips on preparing for a post-blizzard big game.

But while most of Washington shifted to holiday mode early, anticipation of Monday night’s football game was hardly dampened at all. When asked, many Redskins fans said the juxtaposition of a shuttered federal government with a game-must-go-on attitude at FedEx Field simply showed that the capital has its priorities straight.


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