(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.
Simon announced his resignation, effective Aug. 1, at this morning’s school board meeting. He said he was resigning to spend more time with his two children, following the death of his wife, Kedron, on Dec. 30.
“Simply put, I’m doing this because the board work has made me a part-time father,” a visibly sad Simon said in a statement at the end of the meeting. “The last 6 months have been particularly difficult. I’m a broken man emotionally and physically.”
Simon said he hopes the timing of his resignation will allow the special election to replace him to take place on the same day as the general election this fall, thus saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Simon was elected to the school board in 2012 as a Democrat-endorsed candidate, and is serving a term that was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2016.
“I feel badly that I cannot fulfill my entire commitment to those voters,” he said. “I want to thank the Arlington parents and the Arlington community at large for teaching me as much as I can learn about Arlington. This is not a decision I wanted to make. It’s a decision I needed to make.”
A former Capitol Hill staffer, Simon has a son and daughter who attend Arlington Science Focus School, according to his official APS bio.
In May, Simon decried the state of civil discourse on school issues in Arlington, after parents upset at a budget proposal said that school board members “don’t care about children with special needs.”
The Jamestown Elementary School PTA issued the following statement about Simon’s resignation:
Noah Simon has been an exceptional public servant. He has listened and he has led. He has learned and taught, We have been very fortunate to have his time and ideas and tremendous devotion to all our children while he served on the School Board. He has helped make Arlington schools better today, and set good things in motion for the future. We will miss him greatly.
Nancy Van Doren, who was unsuccessful in her attempt to win the Democratic endorsement this spring to replace retiring school board member Sally Baird, hailed Simon’s service and announced that she will seek his seat.
“Noah is a well-respected, well-loved member of the School Board and Arlington community. He has set a very high mark for effective, thoughtful, and compassionate service on behalf of Arlington’s children, families, and educators,” Van Doren said in a press release.
“It is a critical time in our community as we work to manage our growing school system,” she continued. “I am prepared to meet the challenges facing our schools and therefore am announcing today that I will seek election to the seat that Noah is leaving.”
Greg Greeley, who ran against Van Doren this spring and also lost to now-Democratic endorsee Barbara Kanninen, released a statement Tuesday afternoon thanking Simon for his service and supporting Van Doren’s bid to replace him.
“Nancy has my wholehearted support and endorsement,” Greeley said.
Earlier in this morning’s meeting, James Lander was elected chair of the school board from 2014-2015 and Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez was elected vice chair.
“On behalf of the entire School Board, we want to thank Noah for his tireless and exceptional commitment to the school community, especially in the midst of the grief he and his family have experienced during the past few months,” Lander said following Simon’s announcement. “We understand and support his difficult decision to resign, and were fortunate to have such a passionate and committed colleague on this Board during the time he served.”
Also at the meeting, Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s contract was renewed for four years, in a 4-1 vote. The contract renewal was not on the board’s published agenda.
Photo via Facebook
Those who park in Arlington will soon be able to skip the parking meters and pay directly with their smartphone, Arlington County will announce this afternoon.
Arlington will utilize Parkmobile, the same smartphone parking system currently in use by the District of Columbia, allowing smartphone users to use a single app to park in Arlington and the District. Parkmobile is available for iPhone, Android, Windows 7 and Blackberry devices. It utilizes a stored credit card number to pay for parking.
Arlington will offer Parkmobile at all 5,329 metered spaces in the county, though the system will be rolled out in phases. Drivers will be able to use Parkmobile in Shirlington and Crystal City by late July, officials say. It is scheduled to be expanded to Pentagon City in the fall, Ballston and Clarendon in the winter, and all remaining areas — including Courthouse, Rosslyn and Columbia Pike — by spring 2015.
“Whether you use public transportation, bike, walk, or drive in and around Arlington County, we are committed to providing the best commuter experience possible,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “This technology will make it easier for our residents and visitors to pay for parking.”
Separately, Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary told ARLnow.com Tuesday evening that his office recently signed a 5-year contract to bring the EasyPark parking payment system to Arlington. EasyPark is a battery-operated device that allows drivers to pay for parking without using a parking meter or a phone. It will replace the legacy iPark system; new iParks are no longer available because the company behind the technology went out of business.
Nathan Norton, Deputy of Operations for the Treasurer’s Office, says the county is hoping to have EasyPark systems available for purchase online or at the Treasurer’s Office by mid-July. The devices will cost $30 but will come with $10 worth of parking. EasyPark devices can be refilled online or at the Treasurer’s Office. Unlike the iPark, which hangs from a vehicle’s rear view mirror, the Easypark will hang from the driver’s side window, making enforcement easier, Norton said.
The county says it will continue to accept payment for parking at meters (both mechanical coin-operated meters and credit card-enabled multispace meters) and via existing iParks, even after the new systems are rolled out.
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) Kate Roche has been promoted to president of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Roche, 29, will succeed retiring president Rich Doud, 71. She began her career with the chamber in 2007 and most recently served as the organization’s vice president.
“To me, working for the Chamber has always been much more than just a job,” said Roche said in a statement. “The business community continues to evolve and so do the needs of our members. As President and CEO, I will work to keep the Chamber progressing, growing and improving to become the essential partner for business success.”
The chamber issued the following press release about the leadership change.
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Katharine (Kate) Roche has been selected as the Chamber’s new President & CEO. On June 20, 2014, the Chamber’s Board of Directors voted to approve Roche for the position after the Chamber engaged in an extensive nationwide search through retained search firm, Sterling Martin. Roche began with the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in 2007 and most recently served as Vice President.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in this capacity,” said Roche. She added, “To me, working for the Chamber has always been much more than just a job. This is truly my community. The Chamber has an incredibly solid organizational foundation, and I look forward to building upon that. The business community continues to evolve and so do the needs of our members. As President and CEO, I will work to keep the Chamber progressing, growing and improving to become the essential partner for business success.”
2014 Chair of the Chamber’s Board Tim Hughes, of Bean, Kinney & Korman, P.C., said, “As Vice President, Kate Roche has already given tremendous energy, enthusiasm and engagement to the community of our Chamber. She brings to the table a unique ability to build on our existing success and culture while dynamically leading our Chamber into the future. We are excited to continue our mission to strengthen businesses and the economic environment in Arlington with Kate Roche at the helm as President and CEO.”
Roche is a graduate of The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science and International Affairs. Prior to joining the Chamber, Roche worked for Women In Government, a national nonpartisan association of women state legislators based in Washington, DC.
A proud Arlington resident, she currently serves on several boards in the community including her Condo Association Board of Directors. She is also an active volunteer with several groups including the Junior League of Washington and the Arlington Community Foundation Scholarship Review Committee.
Photo via Arlington Chamber of Commerce
Initial reports suggest a man shot himself in the head with a shotgun around 10:20 a.m. Paramedics determined the man to be dead on the scene.
The shooting was reported to have happened near the Pentagon Monument in Section 64, within view of the Pentagon at the southeastern corner of the cemetery. The Pentagon Monument is where remains of the victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon were buried.
After the man was pronounced dead by medics, the scene was turned over law enforcement for an investigation.
Arlington National Cemetery issued the following press release about the incident Friday afternoon:
At approximately 10:00 a.m. today, first responders to include Military Police from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and Arlington County Police Department Officers, responded to reports of a single gunshot at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 64, near the Columbarium Courts. Upon arrival, a deceased male was discovered with a single gunshot wound.
“Although we have not completely ruled it out in order to conduct a complete and thorough investigation, we do not suspect foul play at this point in the investigation,” said Chris Grey, the spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the lead agency investigating the death.
All indications are this is a tragic and isolated incident and there is no threat to the public or those visiting Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery remains open to visitors and families and graveside services are continuing as planned.
No further information will be released at this time to protect the integrity of the investigative process and until the deceased is positively identified and next of kin is officially notified.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.
(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) A construction worker has died after a large excavator tipped over and fell on him at a construction site on George Mason Drive.
Rescue crews were called to a construction site on the 400 block of N. George Mason Drive around 3:30 p.m. for a report of a large piece of construction equipment that fell on a person. The victim, believed to be the equipment’s operator, was pronounced dead on the scene by medics at 3:40 p.m.
Firefighters are also reporting a large diesel fuel leak at the accident site. Investigators from the Arlington County Police Department and from Virginia’s occupational safety agency are en route to the scene.
This is the second serious construction accident in a month and a half at the construction site for the Ballston Row townhouse project. On March 31, a worker fell four stories and suffered serious injuries while working on a different building on the other side of 4th Street N.
Police and fire crews remain on scene and they have closed one lane of southbound N. George Mason Drive as of 4:30 p.m.
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) A worker is fighting for his life after his head was crushed by a trailer hitch in the Arna Valley View neighborhood, between Pentagon City and Shirlington.
The accident happened around 1:15 p.m, outside an apartment complex in the area of 26th and S. Troy Streets. Initial reports indicate that an older man was working under a white van with a trailer attached, trying to fix a tire, when something happened to cause the trailer hitch to come down on the man’s head, crushing it.
An Arlington County Fire Department technical rescue team worked for 30-45 minutes to safely lift up the van and free the victim, who’s said to be alive but in critical condition with a grievous head injury. He was transported via ambulance to George Washington University Hospital.
The victim’s son, who was working with his dad at the time of the accident, helped to flag down emergency responders. Unconfirmed reports suggest the men work for a pool services company.
(Updated at 11:35 p.m.) For the first time in 15 years, a non-Democrat will sit on the Arlington County Board.
John Vihstadt, a Republican who ran as an independent with the endorsement of the local Republican and Green parties, has won the special election to replace Chris Zimmerman (D) on the Arlington County Board.
Vihstadt captured 57 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 41 percent. Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and independent Stephen Holbrook each captured about 1 percent of the vote.
“We won the race by a higher margin than my most aggressive expectations,” Vihstadt told supporters at his victory party tonight. “The most exciting and gratifying measure of our victory was that it was north to south and east to west. There really is one Arlington, not two Arlingtons.”
Given that the race hinged largely on the hot-button issues of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar and Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the result is likely to be viewed by many as a voter rebuke of the County Board’s major capital spending projects.
“People want cost-effective, results-oriented solutions on the local level,” Vihstadt said.
Vihstadt touted his “true rainbow coalition” of supporters. Those supporters included all three candidates for County Board in 2012: current Democratic County Board member and fellow streetcar critic Libby Garvey, Republican ARLnow.com columnist Mark Kelly, and frequent Green Party candidate Audrey Clement. Also supporting Vihstadt was Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, a close friend of Vihstadt and his wife, Mary.
“It was an easy call for me,” said Stamos, a lifelong Democrat. “He’s a good man and we need to sometimes think outside the box.”
“This is a victory for good government,” Garvey said. “I’m going to get choked up, this is Democracy at its best. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”
“The people have spoken and the County Board needs to listen,” Garvey added.
Vihstadt, whose yard signs were purple to represent a blend of red and blue politics, said he plans to “work in a collaborative fashion to get things done for the county.”
“This was a victory not for one person or one party, but for Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians and people with no party,” Vihstadt said. “I’m not going to be a captive of any political party, any person, any ideology — I’m going to call issues as I see them.”
Voter turnout today was relatively light, which benefited Vihstadt. With no state or national-level races energizing the Democratic base, its appears that many party-line Democrats stayed home. Total unofficial turnout was 22,209, or about 16 percent of registered voters.
Vihstadt will be the first non-Democrat on the Board since Republican Mike Lane served briefly after winning a special election in 1999. Lane lost in the general election several months later. Similarly, Vihstadt is expected to face Howze again in the November general election, when a U.S Senate and a House of Representatives race will be on the local ballot.
Howze told dozens of his supporters at the Democrats’ election party at Whitlow’s in Clarendon that he continues to believe infrastructure and education investments are the core values of Arlington voters.
“The special election is behind us now, and I look forward to continuing this conversation into November and moving Arlington forward,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake.”
The incident happened just past 8:00 p.m. According to Metro, the man was “apparently trespassing” on the tracks when he was struck by an inbound train approaching Arlington Cemetery.
“Security camera footage shows [the] subject intentionally walk onto the trackbed,” Metro Transit Police said via Twitter.
The man is dead and his body is between the tracks and a fence, according to scanner traffic. The striking train is still on scene with 80-100 people on board, firefighters reported.
The Blue Line is single-tracking and trains are running every 20 minutes as a result of the incident, Metro says. The agency is advising riders to use the Yellow Line as an alternate between D.C. and Virginia.
(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington firefighters are on the scene of a house fire across from Yorktown High School.
Neighbors called 911 to report the fire at 10:54 a.m., according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The first units on the scene reported flames and smoke coming from the attic of the home,on the 5200 block of N. Yorktown Blvd. The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen and made its way up to the upper levels of the home.
No one was inside the house at the time and no injuries have been reported, according to Marchegiani. Firefighters, however, located two dogs in the house and brought them outside to receive oxygen for treatment of smoke inhalation. They’re being transported to an animal hospital, according to scanner traffic.
There were unconfirmed reports of a female teenager who ran into the house looking for the dogs, but who had to then run back out. She was reported to be safely out of the house by an assistant principal at the high school.
As of 11:15 a.m., the fire was reported to be under control and crews were checking for hotspots.
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Arlington County Police are on the scene of an attempted bank robbery at the M&T Bank at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road.
The crime happened around 2:00 p.m. Initial reports suggest a man entered the bank and demanded cash from the manager, but fled empty-handed. The suspect was unarmed and no one was hurt.
Police set up a perimeter and were looking for the man, who reportedly fled eastbound on Lee Highway on foot. He’s described as a middle-aged white male, weighing about 200 lbs, wearing all black.
A suspect is currently in custody, according to scanner traffic.
(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A construction worker has suffered serious injuries from a four-story fall off a roof in the Buckingham neighborhood.
The incident happened just before 4:00 p.m. on the 400 block of N. George Mason Drive. According to initial reports, the man fell from the roof of an under-construction, four-story condominium building onto a concrete surface below. The construction is for new townhouses in the Ballston Row development.
The victim was at least initially conscious and talking to those who came to his aid, but was bleeding from the head, according to scanner traffic. His injuries are described as life-threatening. He’s being transported via ambulance to the trauma center at George Washington University Hospital.
State occupational safety inspectors are being requested to investigate the incident.
The incident happened at GMU’s Arlington campus, near Virginia Square, around 3:00 p.m. Police say the man entered the classroom and attempted to place the professor under a citizen’s arrest. The professor tried to get the man — described as a white male in his 20s or 30s — to leave, at which time the man pepper sprayed him and a scuffle ensued, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The professor did not know the man, Sternbeck said.
An off-duty police officer heard the commotion and tried to intervene. The suspect fled but was arrested outside the school by Arlington County police officers, according to Stenbeck. He’s now being questioned by police. Several charges are pending.
Paramedics evaluated the professor and about a dozen students who were in the classroom at the time and suffered residual effects from the pepper spray. There were no reports of anyone being taken to the hospital.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Firefighters from Arlington and Fairfax counties battled a two-alarm fire in the central business district of Falls Church.
Units on scene reported flames coming from a 5-story office building at 150 S. Washington Street. Falls Church Police Department spokeswoman Amy Betor said it took firefighters “about 30 minutes to extinguish.” Scanner traffic reported there were initial problems with water pressure at the scene.
There were no injuries reported, despite the office building being occupied at the time.
The fire appears to have started from an electrical room on the second floor, Betor said. A web search revealed real estate company Redfin has an office in Suite 200 of the building, but those on scene couldn’t confirm which company’s office the fire started in.
Randy Karn works on the third floor of the building, and said he started smelling “something electrical burning” about 10 minutes before the fire alarm went off.
“I went out into the office and after about 60 seconds it was filled with smoke,” Karn told ARLnow.com as he was standing outside the building. “It was time to go. I left my wallet, I left my keys, I left my laptop and got out of there.”
Arlington County provides firefighting services to the City of Falls Church under contract. Karn said he estimated the firefighters took between 10 and 15 minutes to arrive. The fire “had a hell of a time getting going,” building slowly, but flames were already showing out of the window by the time firefighters arrived on scene.