(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) The Doubletree hotel at 300 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City was evacuated this afternoon due to a large gas leak.
The gas leak was said to be in the hotel’s parking garage. Firefighters at the scene reported strong odor of natural gas inside and outside the hotel. Guests and employees were evacuated from the hotel.
An Arlington County hazmat team and Washington Gas crews responded to the scene. Police shut down down Army Navy Drive between Eads and 12th Streets to accommodate the large emergency response.
Firefighters and gas company crews managed to shut off the gas after about an hour. Army Navy Drive reopened just after 5:30, and people are being allowed back into the hotel.
No injuries have been reported.
Update at 3:55 p.m. — The County Board voted 4-1 in favor of Fisette’s motion to stop the streetcar project. The dissenting vote was Walter Tejada, who said the streetcar would have reduced congestion and helped the Columbia Pike’s revitalization. “Turning away from a modern streetcar system is a dramatic step backwards,” Tejada said. “Arlington’s credibility in the region will now be adversely affected.”
“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward together … is to discontinue the streetcar project,” Fisette said solemnly, before a large crowd of reporters. “After close consultation with [County Board members Mary] Hynes and [Walter] Tejada, with our partners in Fairfax and Richmond and with members of the community, Ms. Hynes and I have agreed that all spending on streetcar must end.”
Fisette will make it official with a motion at this afternoon’s County Board meeting. Tejada is said to oppose canceling the project and may vote against Fisette’s motion.
The streetcar project was to be funded by commercial transportation revenue, along with funding from the state and Fairfax County, which was to benefit from the Pike streetcar running to the Skyline area.
Fisette said the county will instead explore options for improving bus service on Columbia Pike. The transitway between Crystal City and Alexandria will continue to operate and be developed, but will be served only by buses. Existing streetcar contracts — like the $26 million engineering contract awarded in September — will be “wound down” as quickly as possible.
Fisette acknowledged that many business owners and residents along Columbia Pike will be disappointed by the streetcar project’s cancellation.
“There are those who moved there or developed in anticipation of the streetcar,” Fisette said. “I will say that we are committed and remain committed to the Columbia Pike corridor. We will continue to work towards the realization of that vision [of high quality, mixed use development] in a modified form, and that is the commitment of this Board. We will enhance the bus system to the extent possible.”
Fisette said that he believes a streetcar still makes sense on Columbia Pike, as it would increase transit capacity and spur economic development, adding that he’s “proud” of his vote for it. The decision to kill the project was made after the election of streetcar opponent John Vihstadt on Nov. 4, which “sent a powerful message to the Board.”
“We cannot ignore the political realities… this was not a formal referendum, but I believe it serves as a proxy,” Fisette said. “Right now the level of discord is such that I haven’t seen for awhile. It keeps us from addressing other pressing needs in the community.”
Fisette said county staff and the county manager were “caught flat-footed” by organized opposition to the streetcar, which materialized in “the past year or so.” Efforts to communicate the streetcar’s benefits were ineffective, he said.
The cancellation is an improbable victory for Vihstadt and his anti-streetcar ally on the Board, Libby Garvey. Together, they have been pushing the county to cancel the streetcar project and instead work to implement enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike.
Garvey was in attendance at Fisette’s press conference (which can be viewed online) and said afterwards that Fisette’s announcement “was a complete surprise.” Hynes was at an event this morning and “gave a ringing endorsement” of the streetcar, Garvey said.
“I’m delighted,” Garvey said. When asked about the impact the decision will have on businesses and residents who moved to the area in anticipation of the streetcar, she said “people need to understand that we will get a bus rapid transit system going. It will do everything the streetcar could and more. They’re going to be just fine.”
The streetcar plan for Columbia Pike was developed over nearly a decade of community meetings and deliberations and approved in 2006. Its backers have consistently said that consensus was behind the streetcar and it’s what the community wanted, but Fisette conceded that the feeling around the county has changed.
“The D.C. streetcar was a gift for those of us who oppose the streetcar,” Garvey said.
(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt, running as an independent, has won a historic victory in Tuesday’s general election.
With all 53 precincts reporting, Vihstadt has captured 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Democratic challenger Alan Howze. Vihstadt’s margin of victory is just shy of 7,500 votes, with 62,663 total votes cast in the race.
Vihstadt won by attracting a sizable number of Democratic votes. All Arlington precincts reviewed by ARLnow voted for the top of the Democratic ticket, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is in a tight statewide race with Republican Ed Gillespie.
Vihstadt is the first non-Democrat to win an Arlington County Board seat in a general election since Republican Mike Brunner won in 1983. (Ellen Bozman was elected to the County Board in 1985 and 1989 while running as an independent, but she was endorsed by the Democratic party and in 1993 won reelection as a Democrat.)
“We’ve made modern history in Arlington County,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com at his election party. “In my view, this was not a victory for any one person or any one party, it was a victory for a new way of doing things, a fresh perspective and a new paradigm in Arlington County where partisanship doesn’t mean much but citizenship means everything.”
Howze called Vihstadt to concede the race at 9:15 tonight. He said he was disappointed with the result, which came despite hard work on the campaign trail by his supporters.
“There was a message of dissatisfaction with the electorate,” Howze said. “I worked hard to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the County Board. They chose John and the alternative path he put forward. He ran a very good campaign, ultimately the voters rewarded him for that.”
Now off the campaign trail, Howze said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and three young children.
At the Vihstadt victory party, the mood was jubilant, with campaign manager Eric Brescia jumping for joy as more and more precincts reported wider and wider margins for Vihstadt. County Board member Libby Garvey was by Vihstadt’s side during his victory speech, and was giddy after the victory. A Democrat, Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s executive board in April after backing Vihstadt.
“This wasn’t just a squeaker, we won it big,” Garvey said. “It’s a validation of what I’ve been saying, what John’s been saying. We serve the people of Arlington and we presented them with what we think needs to happen, and they said ‘yes, that’s what we want.’ It’s democracy at its best. I’m thrilled.”
Barbara Kanninen defeated Audrey Clement in one of two School Board races tonight. Kanninen has 66 percent of the vote to 34 for Clement. Nancy Van Doren, running for School Board unopposed, has 97 percent of the vote.
Across Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes Arlington, Democrat Don Beyer has emerged victorious over his four opponents. Beyer captured 63 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Republican Micah Edmond, 2 percent for Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, 0.5 percent for Independent Green candidate Gerard Blais, and 3 percent for independent Gwendolyn Beck.
“My whole life has been leading up to this moment and this mission,” Beyer said in a statement tonight. “Together, we will move Congress and this nation forward.”
In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner has 49.18 percent of the vote, Republican Ed Gillespie has 48.27 percent and Libertarian Robert Sarvis has 2.48 percent.
Though news outlets like CNN have yet to project a winner in the race, an “energized” Warner took the stage at his election night party at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel to declare victory. A centrist, Warner promised to work across the aisle in the newly-Republican controlled Senate.
“Whether it’s here in Virginia or anywhere around the country, the people of America want to move past sound bites, they want us to move past political bickering… to make sure that we get the job done for you and actually govern,” he said. “I’ll go back to Washington and recognize that we have to find that common ground. I know that most of us here are Democrats but neither political party has a monopoly on truth or virtue or patriotism. In this new Senate I’ll work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — if we’re going to make sure we get our country’s problems fixed.”
Among other things, Warner pledged to a work to pass a budget “so we don’t go back to the stupidity of sequestration.”
Locally, voters on Tuesday approved the all four Arlington County bond questions on the ballot, including:
- Schools ($105.7 million)
- Metro and Transportation ($59.7 million)
- Community Infrastructure ($40.2 million)
- Parks and Recreation ($13 million)
Democrat Carla de la Pava, running unopposed for county treasurer, captured 97 percent of the vote. (more…)
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A robbery occurred just past noon today at a bank branch on Lee Highway.
The United Bank at 5350 Lee Highway, across from the Harris Teeter, was robbed by a man who implied a weapon and passed a note to the teller.
The man fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash before police arrived. Police searched the area for the suspect but were unable to locate him. The FBI is also on the scene and investigating the incident.
The suspect is described as a black male, about 6 feet tall, with a muscular build. He is said to be wearing a gray hat, shirt, and pants.
Update at 5:10 p.m. — Arlington County officials say in a press release that the woman who was sick at the Pentagon this morning does not have Ebola.
Based on the public health investigation, which included the travel history of a woman who became ill this morning in a Pentagon parking lot, and on questioning of her by medical staff, medical authorities are confident that she does not have Ebola.
Arlington County Fire Department Emergency Medical Services transported the woman to Fairfax Inova Hospital Friday morning, after she became ill in a Pentagon parking lot. The woman had displayed symptoms consistent with the virus and her travel history was uncertain. She was put in isolation at Fairfax Inova Hospital. Arlington County took all necessary precautions to protect public health during this event, including activating its Emergency Operations Center. We are beginning to break down those operations now.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Arlington County’s responded to the Pentagon this morning due to an possible Ebola case on a tour bus.
Medics responded to the Pentagon this morning for a report of a woman on a bus who was sick and vomiting. When they were told that she had recently arrived from Africa, the hazmat team was called out of “a complete abundance of caution,” Pentagon Force Protection Agency spokesman Chris Layman told ARLnow.com.
A large portion of the Pentagon south parking lot was cordoned off with caution tape, and police are telling those who don’t work at the Pentagon to avoid the immediate surrounding area.
The woman — who reportedly boarded the bus at the Pentagon, got sick in the bathroom then got off — was transported via ambulance to a Inova Fairfax Hospital. The county’s medical director also responded to the call and went to the hospital with the patient, according to scanner traffic.
A tipster with knowledge of the emergency response told ARLnow.com that the patient claimed she recently traveled from the West African nation of Sierra Leone. That was confirmed by D.C. health department officials. However, an Associated Press report is now questioning whether she has, in fact, been out of the country.
The tipster also said that four Arlington firefighters were held at the hospital for much of the day due to possible exposure, and are now monitoring themselves for signs illness. That tip could not be immediately confirmed. The AP is reporting that seven Pentagon police officers might have also been exposed and are being monitored.
Arlington medic units and Fairfax hazmat units are on scene at Inova Fairfax Hosptial, according to news helicopter footage.
— Brad Freitas (@NewsChopperBrad) October 17, 2014
As of 10:50 a.m., Arlington County was mobilizing its Emergency Operations Center to deal with the incident, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Just before noon, the county issued the following press release.
Arlington Responds to Possible Ebola Case
At about 9:10 a.m. today, Pentagon Police officers identified a woman in the Pentagon South Parking Lot, around lanes 17-19, who was ill and vomiting. Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) was notified and responded immediately with both emergency medical aid and HazMat response team.
During the response, the individual allegedly indicated that she had recently visited western Africa. Out of an abundance of caution, all pedestrian and vehicular traffic was suspended around the South Parking lot, while Arlington County responded to the scene. At 9:53 a.m, the patient was taken to the Virginia Hospital Center; however she did not exit the ambulance. ACFD then transported the patient to Fairfax Inova Hospital.
Arlington Public Health is directing the public health response to this incident. Arlington County has activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and a Joint Information Center (JIC) to manage the incident.
At the Pentagon
Out of an abundance of caution and to allow the investigation to proceed, pedestrian and vehicular traffic around the Pentagon South Parking lot’s lanes 7-23 will remain restricted until further notice. The Corridor 2 entrance to the Pentagon is also closed.
More information will be released when it becomes available.
Arlington firefighters and the hazmat team cleared the scene at the Pentagon around 1:45 p.m.
The bus the woman boarded was later stopped and detained near D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
— Bruce Leshan (@BruceLeshan) October 17, 2014
Despite numerous Ebola scares in the United States, there have been fewer than 10 confirmed cases in the country. Today President Obama named an “Ebola czar” to help coordinate the federal response to the outbreak threat.
(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Arlington this afternoon as a dangerous storm system rolled through the area.
The tornado warning has since been canceled, but a flood watch remains in effect through 8:00 p.m. (See below.)
Medics in Arlington responded to at least one report of a person struck by lightning during the storms.
Police reported significant flooding along Four Mile Run in the area of I-395. Flooding was also reported on S. Scott Street near the Wellington apartments, and on Route 50 near Glebe Road.
As of 1:15 p.m., 212 Dominion customers in Arlington County were said to be without power. According to a reader, the Harris Teeter at Lee Highway and N. Harrison Street was among those that had lost power.
…FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING…
THE FLOOD WATCH CONTINUES FOR
* PORTIONS OF MARYLAND…THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND VIRGINIA…
* UNTIL 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING
* A STRONG COLD FRONT WILL IMPACT THE REGION TODAY. A PLUME OF HEAVY RAINFALL IS MOVING SLOWLY ACROSS THE REGION FROM WEST TO EAST THROUGH THIS EVENING. RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF ONE TO THREE INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE.
* THE HEAVY RAINFALL MAY CAUSE FLOODING OF LOW LYING AREAS… ESPECIALLY IN URBAN AREAS AND LOCATIONS ESPECIALLY PRONE TO FRESHWATER FLOODING. NEVER CROSS ROADS THAT ARE FLOODED. TURN AROUND DON`T DROWN.
A FLOOD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR FLOODING BASED ON CURRENT FORECASTS.
YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE ALERT FOR POSSIBLE FLOOD WARNINGS. THOSE LIVING IN AREAS PRONE TO FLOODING SHOULD BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLOODING DEVELOP.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Following a surprise U.S. Supreme Court decision this morning, a same-sex couple became the first to legally receive a marriage license and get married in Arlington.
Arlington Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson quickly approved the couple’s application for a marriage license, and the women then took part in a wedding ceremony outside the Arlington County Courthouse.
“It’s wonderful to be able to stand here today and perform this ceremony,” said Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles, a minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, who has been performing same-sex unions for more than 20 years. “The Commonwealth of Virginia agrees with us that every person has worth and dignity and that love matters no matter what your sexual orientation is. We all have the right to be married to the person we love.”
Newlyweds Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop both are 26 years old and live in Centreville. They have been together for four years and planned on getting married in the District next year. They traveled to Arlington immediately upon learning of the court decision this morning because they heard an officiant may be available to perform a ceremony. They had no idea they were the first same-sex couple to request a marriage license in Arlington until they arrived.
“Not everyone in the United States has this opportunity,” said Turner, referencing the states where same-sex couples can still not legally wed.
Ferguson noted some changes to the state-approved marriage application.
“Now, instead of saying ‘bride’ and ‘groom,’ it says ‘spouse’ and ‘spouse,’” Ferguson said. “When we got the word this morning, we were not prepared for this. But we’re doing our best to prepare now and welcome anybody that would like a marriage license to please come to Arlington. At this point, we can process it in the next 15 minutes or so. But if we get big crowds there could be a little bit of a wait.”
Ferguson explained that same-sex couples now will go through the same process to request marriage licenses as all other couples. They can go to the sixth floor of the county courthouse, pay $30, fill out an application, take an oath and then get married within the next 60 days. No appointments are necessary and applicants are attended to on a first-come, first-served basis. The Commonwealth also will recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring spent part of the afternoon in Arlington to speak about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriages in Virginia and four other states.
“This is the outcome that we have hoped for. It is the outcome we have fought for. And it is the outcome the Constitution requires,” said Herring to a crowd in front of the Arlington County Courthouse. “The rights and privileges of marriage, which are guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution, are now available to all loving, committed couples in Virginia.”
Herring explained that the court’s action would allow same-sex couples to adopt children, file joint tax returns, share employer benefits and make medical decisions for each other.
“Simply put, this ruling allows all Virginians to be full members of our society, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage,” he said. “A new day has dawned, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are shining through. All Virginians have a constitutional right to be treated fairly and to have loving, committed relationships recognized and respected, and to enjoy the blessings of married life. We should all be proud that our fellow Virginians helped lead us forward. This is a tremendous moment in Virginia history.”
Michael Gardner, the Falls Church resident whose 2012 sexual battery conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court earlier this year, has been indicted in another molestation case.
Gardner was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child after an Arlington Circuit Court grand jury returned two indictments on Monday. He’s being held without bond at the Arlington County jail.
The indictment charges Gardner with the molestation of a female family member who was under 13 years of age at the time. The two alleged offenses took place in 2009.
“The allegations came to light only after Gardner was released from prison after his conviction was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court,” Falls Church authorities said in a press release this morning. “The victim in the most recent case related the incident to an individual who, by law, is a mandated reporter of child abuse allegations.”
Gardner’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 6. He is also facing a new trial in the previous molestation case. That trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 2, 2015.
Gardner was originally convicted in May 2012 of molesting two girls during a sleepover birthday party for his daughter in 2011. Gardner is a former chairman of the Falls Church City Democratic Committee and his wife, Robin Gardner, was formerly mayor of Falls Church.
Gardner’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.
Photo courtesy Arlington County Sheriff’s Office
A teen boy has been severely injured in a two-story story fall at the Arlington Mill Community Center.
A witness said the teenager had climbed on the other side of a railing two stories off the ground to do “pull-ups showing off for his girlfriend” when he lost his grip and “fell hard on his back.”
He was transported to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital with life-threatening injuries. Another witness at the scene, who did not see the fall but saw the aftermath, said the teen was conscious but “in shock” after the fall.
Police are investigating the incident. One of the teen’s friends caught the fall on video and accompanied him to the hospital, police told ARLnow.com at the scene.
(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters and paramedics responded to a serious multi-vehicle accident on the GW Parkway this afternoon.
The accident happened just after 2:00 p.m. near the Windy Run overpass, northwest of Spout Run. Three vehicles collided in the northbound lanes, sending one of the cars off the roadway and down an embankment, nearly to the Potomac below.
Two people were in that car; at least one was trapped following the accident and had to be extricated by a rescue team.
One of the victims was flown to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, via a U.S. Park Police helicopter, with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Sean O’Connell. The other victim in the car was transported via ambulance to George Washington University Hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
A third person was injured in one of the other cars involved in the accident. That individual was transported to Virginia Hospital Center with moderate, non-life-threatening injuries, O’Connell said.
All lanes of the GW Parkway were closed between Spout Run and Route 123 following the accident, according to WTOP. Closures remain in place as police investigate the wreck.
Photo courtesy @CAPT258
(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department responded to an apartment fire on Columbia Pike this morning.
The fire was reported around 9:30 a.m. in the rear mechanical room of an apartment building at 2008 Columbia Pike. Firefighters were able to quickly bring the fire under control and douse the flames.
No injuries were reported. It’s unclear if any residents will be displaced as a result of the fire.
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Same-sex marriages could begin next week in Arlington and the rest of Virginia, following this afternoon’s decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond not to delay its ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
The court denied a request to stay the decision while it is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That means unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes in the next few days, same-sex couples may begin marrying in Virginia next week. State Attorney General Mark Herring’s office tells ARLnow.com licenses can start being issued next Wednesday (August 20), unless the Supreme Court issues a stay.
“Throughout this process, we have fought for the principle of equality, moving the case forward in a swift and orderly way. That is why I have asked the Supreme Court to review the case to quickly and definitively resolve the issue for the Commonwealth and all the states,” said Herring in a written statement. “No one anticipated we would be this close this quickly to the day when all Virginians have the right to marry the person they love. That will be a historic day for our Commonwealth and a joyous day for thousands of loving couples.”
Arlington’s Clerk of the Circuit Court is prepared to issue licenses starting on Wednesday.
“If the Supreme Court of the United States does not intervene, the 4th Circuit decision stands and Arlington would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson told ARLnow.com today.
When asked last month how his office would handle a possible influx of same-sex marriage applications, Ferguson said he and his staff “will do our best to accommodate applicants in a timely manner.”
Last month, the court ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
Update at 4:50 p.m. — All lanes have reopened.
Update at 4:00 p.m. — The trapped victims have been extricated from the van. Rescuers are starting to clear the scene and police are planning on reopening at least one right-hand lane shorty.
Earlier: Police and firefighters are on the scene of an overturned minivan on I-395.
The incident happened just before 3:15 p.m., on the mainline northbound lanes under Shirlington Circle. As of 3:20 p.m., the northbound lanes were completely blocked and traffic was being diverted onto the circle.
Rescuers are reporting three people injured, with two people still trapped inside the van. Firefighters are currently trying to extricate the two trapped victims from the vehicle.
Photos courtesy @gogogaryo as noted
(Updated at 5:50 p.m.) A strong thunderstorm ripped through Arlington during Monday’s evening rush hour, knocking down trees, knocking out power and injuring two soldiers on Fort Myer.
The soldiers were reportedly struck by lightning on or around Whipple Field on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. They were reported to be conscious and alert — with non-life-threatening injuries — and were being tended to by Arlington firefighters and paramedics.
On N. Glebe Road just south of Ballston, a large tree was uprooted by the storm, bringing down power lines and crushing two parked cars. The power lines were live and one witness said the sparking wires “burned a hole through the pavement” below. No injuries were reported, but emergency crews have closed the southbound lanes of Glebe Road in the area of 4th Street N. as a result.
The lane closures on Glebe will stretch well into the night as repairs take place. The repair work and power pole replacement is expected to take 6-8 hours.
As of 5:50 p.m., Dominion was reporting 5,629 customers without power in Arlington County. The power outages have also impacted numerous traffic signals around the county. Dark traffic signals should be treated as a four-way stop.
(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) The W&OD and Bluemont Junction trails were closed in the area of Bluemont Park this morning due to a suspicious device reportedly found near the trail.
Police and firefighters responded to the incident and established a mobile command center at Wilson Blvd and N. Manchester Street. The county’s bomb squad brought a robot to inspect the device, which was said to be located near the park’s tennis courts.
As of 9:00 a.m., the bomb squad determined the device to be safe and the trail was being reopened.
According to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, a parks maintenance worker found a package in the grass near the intersection of the two trails, and immediately contacted police. It took police about an hour to clear the scene.
An Arlington Alert message this morning said the Bluemont trail was closed, though scanner traffic indicated that the W&OD trail was closed.