Here in the nation's capital, it's sunny with a little haze, temperature in the 40s, streets dry, Congress in the Capitol and Bush in the White House.

Guess what? Our schools are closed - because of the weather.Wednesday morning there was a little snow - left over from Monday - around the base of Gen. Scott's statue, but the grass around the statue of Gen. MacPherson, who is two blocks nearer the Equator, was bereft of "precip," as the weather geeks call it.

The schools were closed Monday, too.

The capital of the recently enlarged free world awoke that morning to find that the streets clogged with two inches of snow and drifts of up to four inches in places.

The federal government bowed to the relentless elements and closed at noon.

Our suburban school system, which has been known to close because of heavy cloud cover, has a standard explanation for its panicky response to weather conditions - a remote and mysterious land, like Shangri-La or the Kingdom of Prester John, called "Up-county."

As in: "Maybe the sun is shining and the streets are clear where you are, but you don't know what conditions are like `Up-county.' "

No one here says, "I live in Up-county." And I suspect that it is a mythical destination that is always one exit away as you head north on the interstate until finally the road dead-ends at Hudson Bay in a howling, sub-zero blizzard, and a muffled voice from an igloo shouts:

"If you think it's bad here, wait until you get to Up-county."

Why this senseless chaos in the face of routine weather changes that would go unnoticed in much of the rest of the nation?

Some cite the number of immigrants from tropical locales - India, Alabama, El Salvador - who are unused to driving in snow and tend to respond to slippery conditions by standing on the accelerator until the tires melt or abandoning the car in mid-intersection.

Others nominate the inflammatory coverage by local TV stations. Recently, when the overnight temperature "plunged" to 27, one local station broadcast helpful hints on how to battle hypothermia.

Some analysts say the Founding Fathers picked Washington, D.C., as the nation's capital because it was strategically placed to experience the worst of northern winters and southern summers.

Washingtonians have been grateful ever since that the Mojave Desert was not then a part of the Union.