Around this time of year, NBCWashington’s Pat Collins usually grabs his blue-and-white yardstick and heads out to the snow, burying it in a slushy white heap to see if it reaches the one-inch mark at National Airport. Snow lovers around Washington predict when exactly that first inch will fall for a chance to win the prized stick, but this year’s challenge is off to a late start: It’s been a full year since Washington received a full inch of snow, and it’s got the famed snow news reporter down in the dumps.
“A winter without snow for me is like a summer without the beach, or July 4 without fireworks, or maybe Halloween without candy,” Collins says. “You feel like you’ve been sort of cheated or robbed of a special event.”
Collins has been measuring snow for decades, but the Pat Collins Snow Stick Challenge started nearly 10 years ago, after Snowmageddon covered Washington with about 17 inches of snow within a couple of days. Whenever the area gets “stick-worthy” snow (four inches or more), the real game begins: People all over the area head outside for another chance to win the snow stick, recreating scenes from their favorite Oscar films, posing with their pets, and other fun challenges. It’s one of Collins’ favorite parts of winter.
“My career is sort of morphed into two things: I cover murders, and I measure snow. The snow is sort of a nice relief from some of the sadness that I encounter every day,” Collins says.
According to Fox5 meteorologist Mike Thomas, this could be the second time DC experienced a snowless February since 1977. DC should have gotten at least one good snow by now, Collins says, and seeing trees and flowers bloom gives him a sinking feeling in his stomach. Since he’s usually outside for a long time in the cold weather, he’s a big fan of long underwear, often wearing “more layers than a Smith Island cake.” But this year? “I’ve only only had to reach for those long johns maybe once or twice. It’s unbelievable. It’s a very warm winter,” he says.
Still, Collins is hopeful that we’ll have at least one good snow day before the season ends. “We’ve had snows in March,” he says, reminiscing about past St. Patrick’s Day-themed challenges. He keeps his snow stick in the trunk of his car (just in case of a snow ambush) and every day, he keeps an eye on the weather.
“I’ll tell you one thing: In the history of the official Pat Collins Snow Stick Challenge, we’ve never been skunked,” Collins says. “If we go through the rest of this winter with no real flakes, it’ll be historic, in a bad way.”