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Record storm impacts Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C. area

Editor's note: President Thomas S. Monson was among those affected by the storm that shut down much of the Washington, D.C., area. The Church leader, who has served more than 40 years on the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America, went to Washington on Monday, Feb. 8, for BSA's national meetings, which included a program on Feb. 9 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Scouting in the United States. Because of the storm, he had to spend an extra day at a hotel in the nation's capital.

Related story: Church News readers weather the storms

WASHINGTON, D.C.

The biggest snowstorm in decades shut down airports, highways, offices, schools and stores in the mid-Atlantic during the past week. Even the Smithsonian Museums and monuments on the National Mall were closed. LDS Church services for Sunday, Feb. 7, were canceled by Saturday afternoon when it became apparent that no one should try to go anywhere.

The reflection pond at the Washington D.C. Temple has been frozen much of the winter.
The reflection pond at the Washington D.C. Temple has been frozen much of the winter. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby
A huge pine tree, its branches weighted down by heavy snow, was one of many trees that came down during the record snowstorm in and around Washington, D.C. Feb. 6.
A huge pine tree, its branches weighted down by heavy snow, was one of many trees that came down during the record snowstorm in and around Washington, D.C. Feb. 6. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

The crippling storm also gave members and missionaries the opportunity to serve their neighbors. Young elders and sisters in the city and areas surrounding the nation's capital spent days shoveling record-breaking snow that piled up to 32 inches.

Because such weather is highly unusual in the area, municipalities lack equipment, manpower and budgets to handle the effects of such a large storm. People faced long lines and some empty shelves at grocery stores Thursday as nearly everyone stocked up before the predicted storm. Snow shovels and bags of ice melt and salt were almost impossible to find. But anyone who'd purchased a snow shovel after the first unusually heavy snowfall in December found it was a sound investment.

Members of the Centreville Second Ward teachers quorum shovel the stake center sidewalks.
Members of the Centreville Second Ward teachers quorum shovel the stake center sidewalks. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

The Washington D.C. Temple closed after the single scheduled wedding Friday morning, Feb. 5. Ordinance workers and temple missionaries were sent home shortly after noon as snow began to fall. By evening, it was piling up quickly. (The temple, visitors' center, and Church distribution all reopened at noon Thursday, Feb. 11, after an unprecedented six-day weather-related closure.)

Elder Robert C. Rich, director at the nearby visitors center, also excused the senior couples and young sister missionaries — who normally offer tours, movies, musical performances and firesides at the center — to return to their apartments around 1 p.m.

Elder Stephen Sowby (right) and a neighbor worked to dig out snow around cars in the parking lot where they live in Centreville in northern Virginia.
Elder Stephen Sowby (right) and a neighbor worked to dig out snow around cars in the parking lot where they live in Centreville in northern Virginia. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

"We all live near enough [to the visitors center] that we could be here," he explained, "but in this kind of weather, no one else can get here." The young missionaries spent the weekend shoveling snow for the older senior couples and temple workers and enjoyed gathering in their apartment buildings Sunday.

In a rare event, said temple President Earl C. Tingey, no weddings had been scheduled for Saturday, so temple facilities remained closed during the blizzard. Scheduled live endowments were cheerfully rescheduled. Three stakes' temple day was canceled.

A tractor continues in the effort to move snow from the temple grounds.  The parking lot is partially cleared and the road and all facilities are open.
A tractor continues in the effort to move snow from the temple grounds. The parking lot is partially cleared and the road and all facilities are open. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

President Tingey and his wife spent a chilly, dark 48 hours in their condo in Chevy Chase, Md., a mile from the temple, before power was restored Sunday night. They listened to weather updates on a three-way radio.

Residents were greeted Sunday morning with blue skies and deep snow after a heavy storm slammed the mid-Atlantic states. Many Latter-day Saints spent the day helping their neighbors dig out.
Residents were greeted Sunday morning with blue skies and deep snow after a heavy storm slammed the mid-Atlantic states. Many Latter-day Saints spent the day helping their neighbors dig out. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

Sunday Church services, meetings and firesides were canceled throughout the area. People were out shoveling snow into deep piles on the sunny but chilly, windy day. Young missionaries spent the Sabbath shoveling out parking lots where they lived.

Presidents in both the Washington D.C. North and South missions "locked down" mission vehicles, putting the safety of the missionaries first. Side streets in several states were still not passable Thursday, Feb. 11. The temple parking lots were not cleared until Tuesday; the Church's snowplow broke down Saturday following an all-nighter.

A heavy snowstorm like this impacts Latter-day Saints in the area in various ways.

"It's a killer for baptisms," said President Alma Mansell of the Washington D.C. North mission. "Missionaries are basically 'locked in' their apartments. Church services have been canceled three times this winter, and that means baptisms are canceled, too. They can study and make phone calls, but we did have some elders yesterday who walked a couple of miles in the snow to meet with investigators."

Members of the Centreville Second Ward teachers quorum have fun shoveling on a no-school Monday.
Members of the Centreville Second Ward teachers quorum have fun shoveling on a no-school Monday. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

The Anne and Ryan McKinstry family, in the Centreville Virginia Stake, watched a large, snow-laden pine tree fall in their front yard, barely missing Brother McKinstry's car in the driveway. On Sunday, the family, which includes six children ages 1 to 10, acted on the suggestion of their ward bishop and held a family service at home with the sacrament. They sang hymns together and shared testimonies.

"It was a sweet experience, and there was such a strong spirit," said Sister McKinstry.

The kids had another school "snow day" Monday at home as local roads remained icy and snow piled high in their cul-de-sac. They took advantage of the bright sunshine and temperatures in the 20s in the afternoon to go sledding on the hill beside their home. Their father took his snow shovel to the Centreville stake center and joined priesthood quorums in clearing deep snow from sidewalks around the building.

Zone leaders in the Washington D.C. South Mission held their usual Monday morning meeting at the mission home in Northern Virginia where President Mark Albright and Sister Karen Albright reside. But they first had to dig out the road to get there. Sister Albright described them as "a small army" clearing the cul-de-sac and road for the neighbors, as well.

Mounds of snow greet visitors to the Washington DC Temple, Friday, Feb. 12, 1010.
Mounds of snow greet visitors to the Washington DC Temple, Friday, Feb. 12, 1010. Photo: Photo courtesy of Laurie Sowby

The storm's impact can be felt by members of all ages. Classes for hundreds of young single adults in the Mount Vernon Institute were canceled the week before because of storm warnings; students were notified via e-mail and text messages. Institute classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday again because of icy roads and other storms.

A stake conference satellite broadcast originally scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 14, was postponed.

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