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Alaskans Undeterred by DC Snowstorm


Several show up for Sen. Begich's weekly constituent coffee

While most federal employees in Washington, D.C. have not seen their office or desk since an early departure Friday afternoon, Sen. Begich and his D.C. staff have kept trekking on. To no one's surprise, so have his visiting Alaska constituents.

Since Saturday, Washington D.C. has received an estimated 31" of snow. An amount that has helped the city break a winter snowfall record that has stood since the 19th Century. The office of Sen. Begich has remained open through the blizzard, surprising senate offices that represent warmer climates and even the capitol police. But the snow and statistics didn't faze several Alaskans who showed up this morning for the weekly Constituent Coffee.

In Sen. Begich's D.C. office Thursday mornings usually mean Constituent Coffee. The coffees are an opportunity for the Senator and his staff to meet with Alaskans visiting Washington D.C. and commonly draw a couple dozen Alaskans. With a few feet of snow shutting down a city unaccustomed to a few inches, our staff speculated about attendance at this morning's coffee. Orders had already gone out that only staffers that live near the U.S. Capitol should report to work on Thursday. The closure of the federal government meant that the location had to be moved from a hearing room to the much smaller office front room. Without catering services the office decided to brew its own coffee and bake its own cookies. A last minute notification went up on the website. We weren't positive any Alaskans would show up for this morning's coffee, but we knew there was a very good chance they would.

At 7:50 a.m. the first member of the Senator's staff arrived at the office in the seemingly deserted Russell Senate Office Building. Tasked with having a pot of coffee ready by 8:30, the staffer was surprised to discover they were not the first one at the office. That distinction belonged to five residents of Nome representing the Norton Sound Health Corporation. Scheduled to meet with the Senator's health care staff later in the day,  the visitors did not want to miss a chance to share a cup of coffee with Sen. Begich. After hearing the horror stories about traversing a snow-covered Washington D.C., they left their hotel intending to be on-time to meet the Senator. As their 8 a.m. arrival indicated, they found out their years of experience and their Alaskan intuition got them to the Senator's office with plenty of time to spare.

The group from Nome was joined by the Mayor of Whittier and more Alaskans from Anchorage. Soon the combination of constituents and staff found themselves sharing stories in the hallway. The front room of the office proved itself too small.

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