Minnesota winter hubris rubs Washington the wrong way

A Minnesota native has pretty well killed the “niceness” image that locals may have had in the nation’s capital.

Courtney Kueppers, a temporary employee on the Washington Post’s metro desk as part of a fellowship through the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, has piled on to the misery in DC following last weekend’s blizzard with an opinion piece about how Minnesotans would have handled things.

In the great Halloween blizzard of 1991, my parents recall taking my then-10-month-old brother trick-or-treating in 28 inches of snow. When they took him outside, the snowbanks were taller than him. Ghosts and goblins collected their candy on sleds that year. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources calls it “one the largest and longest lasting blizzards in state history.”

But still, they forged on.

During the winter of 2014, when I was living in Eau Claire, Wis. — a place that once landed on David Letterman’s top-10 list of coldest places in America — the high one day was minus 23. My fellow students and I trekked across a footbridge over the Chippewa River, despite warnings from the university that spending more than 15 minutes outside may be hazardous to our health, even if we were dressed like Randy in “A Christmas Story.”

And yes — we forged on.

Another day that winter, my family and I stood outside at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and cheered on the University of Minnesota hockey team as temperatures hovered just above zero. By March 1, 2014, my Wisconsin town had recorded 55 days at or below zero and 54 sub-zero days, received 61.7 inches of snow and had an average temperature of 7.5 degrees, according to weather records.

In the comments section, Minnesotans and former Minnesotans rose to the District’s defense.

I lived in MN for five years. During that time, there were no storms that dropped more than 10 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. They get a lot of snow, but usually in 4-6 inch increments courtesy of Alberta clippers.

The Post should be embarrassed for publishing this on its CWG blog, which is so much more highly respected than the rest of the Post.

Being a native Minnesotan who’s lived in the area for almost 20 years now, I have also laughed more than once at the ease with which everything comes to a screeching halt here. Having said that though, I also acknowledge that the DC area simply isn’t as well equipped to deal with the snow as Minnesota. I lived on a almost rural street in an outer suburb of the Twin Cities and yet my street was somehow always plowed by the time I left home at 5:40am every day. With the infrequency with which we get snow here, especially big storms like Snowzilla, it simply doesn’t make sense to put the kind of resources into snow removal as they do in Minnesota where snow is commonplace and expected.

I’m a Minnesotan that has lived in DC for five years, and this article gives all of us transplants a bad name.

Yes, schools would never have been closed for this long in Minnesota. Yes, I do think that people here need to be better at shoveling sidewalks. But can’t we all just accept that every region is uniquely adapted to deal with its own weather and leave it at that? I can’t believe this was published.

I am from MN. I haven’t lived there for a long time – but I know that they haven’t had anything like #snowzilla in a long time. Yes, it may have been bitterly bitterly cold in the last 20 years – I know it has been, I was there 2 years ago when I broke my rule about going there between Nov and March and went for a friend’s wedding in Dec – but they haven’t had anything like this in one storm for a long time. I don’t honestly know HOW MN would handle a storm on this scale – out of school for a week? Probably not – but they have A LOT more snowplows etc. But they would NOT be back on their feet the day after. Completely ridiculous on this person’s part and sort of insulting. Yes, we take pride in ice fishing and doing crazy things in snow and cold, but most of those ice fishing houses are little party places with heat, TV and a fridge – they aren’t as ‘tough’ as they make out to be. Appalling rude and arrogant and not the least bit funny. . yes, I remember my mom and dad pulling us out of school in the middle of a blizzard and driving to Chicago for Thanksgiving, knowing we would outdrive it at some point – but that was a really silly thing to do. I am surprised WaPo agreed to publish – clearly they ASKED her to write it. . .And BTW – I LOVE the heat and humidity of DC – it is one of the reasons I stay here with the crazy amount of time I spend in traffic and how expensive it is.

Dear recent transplant,

I am a native Midwesterner (4 years in IA and 21 years in MN) and moved out to DC in 1993, when I was in my mid-20s. The Halloween snow that you mentioned, I was up and out the next day to work. My boss’ car on the other hand, was stuck in her alley for a week before it got plowed out. And that is in an area that is used to getting this kind of snow annually, with the equipment and personnel in sufficient numbers to handle it. Even you must admit that 3 feet of snow (that’s what we got here in Ashburn) in one snow event is a lot no matter where you come from (ok, maybe not Buffalo).

I agree that some people get a little ridiculous, and there seems to be more hype over this type of weather event, but again, this is not typical for this area. I do wish more people would stay off the roads, because unless you have grown up driving in winter/snowy conditions, you are a hazard to yourself and others, but I digress.

What people really find distasteful is to have someone who just moved here tell them how or how not to behave, or how much better the transplant is at withstanding this or that. Your condescension is not appreciated, and really not considered “Minnesota nice” at all.

As others have mentioned, it’s all about what you are used to. My first summer here after I moved from MN, it was incredibly hot. I thought I was going to die. I would walk to work and have to pack an extra shirt because I would be a sweaty mess after walking in 90 degree heat with 75% humidity at 8:00 am. I stopped wearing heels because they would sink into the asphalt when I was trying to cross a street.

As someone who has now lived in DC almost as long as I lived in MN, I would appreciate you checking your ego at the door and write another article once you’ve lived through a DC summer.


A true Minnesotan

“Because in my Minnesota home town, school did not close for winter weather. It just didn’t.”

Ummm where did she go to school? I am from Minnesota and I can remember every snow day, two hour late I had and how hard we celebrated. This is just a lie that we don’t close for snow cause we do. Especially when you have buses running out to the country for kids. Also pretty sure they closed school in 2014 when they got absolutely obliterated with snow.

Also her parents do their 10 month old out in a blizzard? That’s just plain stupid. That is the arrogance that gets people killed.

I too, am a former Minnesotan, but I have been living on the East Coast (DC area) for 16 years now, and believe I am now a Washingtonian. While I understand some of these sentiments by this Minnesotan, it truly is a different ballgame here. We have probably 2-3 times more traffic than you all do, and these amounts of snow do not happen every year. I think it should be up to the parents if they choose to send their kids to school that may walk the city streets etc if the school is open. If school is closed, well,yep, that is the way it is, in the name of safety. Sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry. East Coasters also do not generally love this stuff, I can even admit to that, I hate it. One of the many reasons I left Minnesota, for a less wintry and cold “winter”.

Several noted that a few years ago school was canceled in Minnesota because the temperature reached 91 degrees one summer.

“That’s like winter to us,” a DC’er pointed out.

  • Jerry

    Have you ever noticed when you talk to people who grew up in Minnesota they always claim that it was always the other schools that got snow days, not theirs? Despite all evidence to the contrary, everybody believes this to be true.

    • Kassie

      Not necessarily. Urban kids have a lot less days off than rural kids for snow. And we both know that when the governor called off school for the entire State in the late 90s, a certain small public liberal arts college decided it would be open and not comply with the governor. It was the only school in the state to be open that day, or it might have been two days.

    • Tim

      Depending on where they went to school, that may well be the case. I grew up in the suburbs, and we had maybe three snow days the entire time I was going to school. Even if I include late starts, I can still count them on two hands. It was the same situation for most of the other Twin Cities school districts. It was and is certainly true that schools in other parts of the state get more snow days and late starts because of distances, reduced ability to plow snow, etc.

      • BJ

        Osseo school district here, I recall only 1 snow day in my school life, 1984 or 1985 I think. The year after I graduated, 1991, I think my brother and sister had an average of 2 days per year.

  • Al

    From the WaPo intro: “This commentary is by Courtney Kueppers, a Minnesota native who is temporarily working on The Post’s Metro desk as an Ann Devroy fellow as part of a program through the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Kueppers has lived through 18 harrowingly cold and snowy winters in Minnesota and three in Wisconsin.”

    21 whole winters, huh? Courtney, may you have at least three times as many more winters to realize the error of your ways.

  • BReynolds33

    I rather enjoy how proud Minnesotans are about their ability to handle the snow… right up until it actually snows. Then it’s gridlock for three days, the roads are unplowed, and people still go on Facebook with the picture of five plows wide on 94 and say “just another Tuesday,” while the state patrol digs 240 cars of the ditch per hour.

    • Tim

      Yep, so much this.

      I also think people in other parts of the country are more sensible in dealing with winter weather in that they are more willing to adjust their activities and behavior for it. Here, there seems to be an expectation that we have to carry on life as normal even in the face of really heavy snow, whether it’s how we drive, keeping everything open when it probably shouldn’t be, etc.

  • Mark

    It started getting well above freezing a day or two after the snowstorm in D.C. (51 yesterday; 48 today) — things like that quickly change the whole snow removal landscape, and I’m wondering if they’re now facing things like basement flooding and hydroplaning through big pools of water on the freeways. — Also, “Minnesota” is not all one thing. It’s a big state with many different climate variations. Come up to Duluth next time we have a Lake Superior nor’easter blizzard.

  • Joe

    Now we know it’s not just Minnesotans who have thin skin. DCers get riled up for nothing too.

  • Khatti

    Gee…what I remember about the Halloween Blizzard was parking one of our plows in a foot of snow so we could put the snow-blower on that particular tractor–all in the dark. No one with a brain in their head took their munchkins trick-or-treating that year.

    • Kassie

      I went trick or treating that year and I don’t like what you are implying about my parents.

      • Renae

        Exactly. And I was in a rural area where you had to drive half a mile in between houses to find candy! We all forged ahead, my witch costume underneath layers of winter clothes.

      • Khatti

        You’re right. If you lived in the Metro, or any community for that matter, trick-or-treating was doable. Where I was the snow was banking up at and inch-and-a-half an hour, and was coasting along at thirty miles an hour. I had plans that night–but they quickly got cancelled.

  • Anna

    I raised my son in Southeast Minnesota and he still lives there with his fiance.

    If you been to that region of Minnesota, you know there are high ridges and valleys, especially close to the river in towns like Winona, Lewiston, La Crescent, Houston and Caledonia. It is what makes that area of Minnesota so beautiful.

    School buses are not equipped with 4-wheel drive and have to drive up and down those ridge tops. Initial plowing is done on the major highways and then the minor roads in the valleys and on the ridge tops.

    For safety’s sake the cut off for snow days down there is around 6 “. It is not safe for buses to drive in that amount of snow. While kids living in or close to town might be able to get to school safely, the kids out on the crop and dairy farms cannot.

  • MrE85

    More proof that in Washington DC and elsewhere, we can’t even agree on snow. (Sigh)

  • Leann Olsen

    I’m so bored with bloggers and twitterers judging snowfall and the reaction it gets. Unless it’s something that’s actually meant to be entertaining (Times Square snowball fight or the Snowzilla car snow sculpture) it’s boring to listen to people judging others. Sure I get it. I don’t think a 10-month-old needs to go trick-or-treating at all let alone in a blizzard, but we also don’t know the story and what that really means so why should we judge? It’s boring. My kid “went trick-or-treating in a blizzard” when she was less than 24 hours old and if I put that put there in a blog post I’d probably get attacked mercilessly too until I put in the completely boring explanation that it meant my Mom dressed my newborn in a pumpkin costume and walked down the hallway to the nurse’s station with her.

  • raflw

    “which is so much more highly respected than the rest of the Post.”
    Ouch! Clearly this was said by a Minnesotan.

  • RJ Roggenback

    Just a small but I think important note. Washington is in the PNW. It is the most northwest of the lower 48 states. Is it so much effort when writing about Washington D.C., to put the D.C. in the name? These posts are seen worldwide. Washington State would appreciate the distinction.