D.C.’s four-let­ter word

The win­ter-weary do what they can to find signs of spring.

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY STEVE HEN­DRIX AND JOHN WOODROW COX

Some­where, a daf­fodil is tap­ping its wrist­watch.

It’s five min­utes past March, and we are wait­ing, coiled, ready for spring to spring, yearn­ing for cro­cuses, dry side­walks and breezes that don’t make us clutch our col­lars.

Af­ter en­dur­ing the cold­est Fe­bru­ary in 35 years, the up-to-nine inches of late-sea­son snow that closed schools and crushed spir­its Thurs­day elicited a communal groan. March is the new Fe­bru­ary. Or the old Fe­bru­ary.

And worse, March’s lion mode looks to be fiercer than usual, our in­creas­ingly loathed fore­cast­ers tell us. Also out of fa­vor: shadow-spot­ting ground­hogs (look­ing at you, Punx­sutawney Phil).

“Some­body ought to shoot that bas­tard,” said Mike Mor­lang, an idled Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion staffer nurs­ing a cof­fee at a Mary­land McDon­ald’s Thurs­day morn­ing.

But enough about win­ter (we won’t use the four-let­ter s-word again in this re­port). No, we’re on to search­ing for spring wher­ever we can.

At Google, an­a­lysts said queries on va­ca­tion deals spiked to three times the nor­mal rate as the win­ter storm hit this week, un­doubt­edly fu­eled by stir-crazy sun-seek­ers.

At Behnke Nurs­eries in Beltsville, Md., the two-acre green­house has be­come a kind of cli­mate clinic, where frus­trated gar­den­ers come to just stand and in­hale the com­ing sea­son. “We’re find­ing a lot of them in there,” said manager Bill Mann. “It gives them a chance to think spring even if they can’t get started.”

And at the Spring Cen­ter in Sil­ver Spring, house­bound cus­tomers drove up the de­mand for de­liv­ery spring rolls at — where else? — Spring Gar­den Chi­nese restau­rant. “Our food is fresh, like spring,” ex­plained owner Kelly Shi.

If spring isn’t in the air yet, it may be lurk­ing un­der­foot. Scrape away some of the un­men­tion­able frozen pre­cip­i­ta­tion, and you could find some of those longed­for early blooms.

“I saw some snow­drops in my gar­den yes­ter­day for the first time,” said Adrian Hig­gins, The Wash­ing­ton Post’s gar­den colum­nist.

Hig­gins said the sea­son is in­deed fur­ther be­hind than this same week last year, when tem­per­a­tures reached nearly 70 de­grees. But, like other penned-in plant-lovers, he is find­ing bits of the ob­sti­nate spring where he can: In his case, in his base­ment, un­der the grow lights where his kohlrabi seedlings are bask­ing un­til their out­door de­but.

“It’s a good way to get over the s--w and ice,” he said.

In most years, those in charge of the Mary Gar­den at St. Mary’s Parish in An­napo­lis would have dirt un­der their fin­ger­nails by now.

“Be­cause of the weather, we’re wait­ing,” said Rose Love, whose flo­rally ap­pro­pri­ate name evokes thoughts of a warm April stroll in Paris.

Love runs the group of mas­ter gar­den­ers that tends the plot, which fea­tures va­ri­eties of flow­ers named for the Vir­gin Mary. She ad­mires the gar­den’s begonias and vin­cas, but she most looks for­ward to the blue hy­drangeas, their blos­soms re­sem­bling a clus­ter of but­ter­flies on the verge of take­off.

She and her fel­low care­tak­ers so miss their gar­den­ing that they plan to meet for lunch this week­end just to talk hor­ti­cul­ture.

Boyd McHugh is a hu­man ba- rom­e­ter of spring. He works in Spring Val­ley, in North­west Wash­ing­ton. Dur­ing the win­ter, he is the sales manager at Ski Cen­ter. Each March, that same store trans­forms into Spring Val­ley Pa­tio, and he be­comes an out­door-fur­ni­ture buyer.

As he has for the last 16 years, he is wait­ing for the mo­ment of morph, when they take down the rack of ski parkas at the front and re­place it with a vast photo mu­ral of a trop­i­cal beach.

“I don’t know, we may push it back a week,” McHugh said as the win­ter weather coated his nearly empty park­ing lot Thurs­day. “We love it, but I hope this is the last of the [crys­talline wa­ter droplets] we are go­ing to see this year.”

Busi­nesses pine for spring. In Wash­ing­ton, it’s an in­dus­try. Each year, the Na­tional Cherry Blos­som Fes­ti­val draws more than 1.2 mil­lion tourists and gen­er­ates in ex­cess of $100 mil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact.

Con­ven­tion sea­son will soon bring thou­sands of ex­pense ac­counts to town. Grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies for area col­leges will fill ho­tels and restau­rants.

“It is our Su­per Bowl,” El­liott Fer­gu­son, head of Des­ti­na­tion DC, said of the sea­son.

Spring fash­ions weren’t wait­ing for warm weather. One shop­per at Hu’s Shoes in Ge­orge­town bought an $820 pair of Is­abel Marant flats Thurs­day in de­fi­ance of the slush out­side.

“I think there’s a lot of pent-up en­ergy and de­mand for san­dals that re­mind you of brighter days,” said owner Eric Eden.

To run­ners, many of whom are in the fi­nal stages of train­ing for next week’s Rock’n’Roll Marathon and other sea­sonal races, spring means a stretch of dry pave­ment. Those be­came even scarcer this week, push­ing the jog­ging throngs to the few re­li­able open roads in the area, such as the stretches of Hains Point and Rock Creek Park closed to traf­fic on week­ends.

“Beach Drive was as crowded as a church on Easter,” said Char­lie Ban, edi­tor of Run Wash­ing­ton mag­a­zine. “Every­body and their mother who hoped to get in a run has been out there.”

Ban him­self re­lied Thurs­day on the al­ways-plowed roads ring­ing the U.S. Capitol. Ten loops around the dome gave him 12.5 miles.

Alex Mar­shall sensed just a whiff of spring Wed­nes­day, in the mo­ments be­fore the rel­a­tively warm rain changed to . . . some­thing colder. And he needed it. Mar­shall, 21, is back in the Dis­trict while on spring break from Clark Uni­ver­sity in Worces­ter, Mass., where more than 115 inches of flaky frozen va­por — the most of any large city in the coun­try — have piled up this sea­son.

“I feel like I’m be­ing fol­lowed,” he said.

On Spring Road in Spring­field, Ann Wade stared out of her win­dow at a yard mat­ted with white, fluffy irony.

It’s been far too long since her minia­ture schnauzers, Holly and Katie, played in fresh green grass.

“I’m kind of tired of things shut­ting down all the time,” said Wade, a fed­eral em­ployee. “It would be nice to not be so cooped up.”

The res­i­dents of Bl­iz­zard Court in Stafford, Va., could not be reached for com­ment.

Source: Na­tional Weather Ser­vice, to­tals from Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port as of 6:52 p.m. BILL O'LEARY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A stop sign’s mes­sage in yearn­ingly named Sil­ver Spring is not heeded by the weather Thurs­day as an­other snow­storm hits the re­gion. Up to nine inches of snow was ex­pected by the end of the night.

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A win­dow full of spring fash­ions seems to have bloomed a touch too early as snow falls Thurs­day in Alexan­dria fol­low­ing the re­gion’s cold­est Fe­bru­ary in 35 years.

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