Say the word in Washington, D.C. and you create instant panic and a run on the essential elements of life -- bread, milk and toilet paper.

Most years, that’s all that happens. The mid-Atlantic is right to fear snow. Not because we seldom get the fluffy little bits of terror. No, because what we call snow and what you call snow are likely different.

In the nation’s capital, snow is rightfully a four-letter word. Here temperature often hovers right around freezing. Snow is often shorthand for ice, freezing rain, sleet and worse. Every little terrifying visit brings accidents and closings. Several years ago a surprise quarter-inch snow shut down the metro area for hours. School children arrived home at 10 p.m. because no traffic could move. That’s what snow means in Washington. Add to that a lack of snow emergency equipment compared to areas that get real snow and a fun time is had by all.

That would be bad in most cities, but in D.C. it is horrific. As the capital not just of the United States but of the free world, it draws visitors and refugees from every climate imaginable. Most either know how to drive in real snow, but not ice, or are like Hollywood stars who sneeze at anything this white. Just don’t ask them to drive on it.

Then came the winter of 2009-10. Forget the decadal cycle of one big storm or blizzard that closes schools and frustrates parents. As of today, we’re up to three and counting. D.C. residents have turned to social media like Twitter and FaceBook to vent their frustration with terms like “snOMG,” “snowmageddon,” “snowpocalypse,” and “kaisersnoze.” (You have to love “Usual Suspects” for that last one. Imagine the devil turned mobster and you get how nasty that kind of snow must be.)

In Baltimore, just to the north, the latest storm brought “the winter total snowfall to 64.4,″ which makes the winter of 2009-10 the snowiest winter on record.” And it’s still snowing – hard. A video of Accuweather’s Jim Kosek over-the-top weather forecast for last week’s blizzard went viral. Kosek’s screaming presentation of “our paralyzing, crippling, record-breaking storm,” while amusing, reflects the regional view of the end times nature of winter.

In D.C., where the record total snow of 1888 is also likely to fall today. We’re increasingly running out of places to put the stuff. Unless residents build a 200 ft. high SnObama on the mall (that idea is probably in the stimulus bill somewhere), we’ll end up with mounds and mounds of it everywhere. Secondary roads go unplowed and primary roads become increasingly impassable.

But there is good news.

Yes, in the midst of snOMG, my personal favorite, we find that non-essential parts of the government shut down. Turns out, that’s almost everything except national defense. Wednesday marks the third day in a row that the federal government has closed. While people in D.C. suffer, the nation should rejoice.

Afraid of health care reform? Don’t worry, legislators are snowed out. Worried that Obama is launching yet another global warming initiative? Well, he is, but the latest snowfall has postponed it at least. (Bad marketing that. When will lefties learn to make all their scary climate comments in hot weather?)

The government shutdown, a controversial item when Congress doesn’t pass its budget, becomes an object of ridicule when Mother Nature does it. The Associated Press headlined its story on the issue: “Snow shuts down federal government, life goes on.” Reporter Jessica Gresko asked the all-important question, “If snow keeps 230,000 government employees home for the better part of a week, will anyone notice?”

Yes, we’ll notice and be glad.

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His commentaries appear frequently in the Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor. Follow Fox Forum on Twitter, too. @fxnopinion.