(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) This morning’s commute is officially a traffic nightmare for anyone still out on the roads.
The map above shows just how bad traffic is around the region as two and a half inches of slick, powdery snow have fallen. Numerous accidents have been reported around the county as students make their way to school and commuters make their way to work.
Metrobus service has now been limited to snow emergency routes — major roadways only. There is no Metrobus service on secondary streets.
Arlington snow crews so far are only treating primary and secondary roads, not neighborhood streets.
Conditions are bad enough on local roads that we’ve heard of at least one tow truck getting stuck en route to an accident scene An Arlington County Police spokesman, who himself was stuck in heavy traffic having moved only 3 miles in an hour and a half, said officers were doing their best to keep up with all the accidents.
“Obviously traffic is pretty [bad],” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The county’s 911 call center is “getting a steady flow of emergency calls. The majority of calls are for struck vehicles… we’re addressing accidents first, then stuck vehicles.”
Sternbeck noted that the police department has a normal staffing level this morning.
At least one crossing guard has not been able to make it to her post near Jefferson Middle School, but no police officers are available to replace her, according to scanner traffic. At N. McKinkey Road in 9th Street, medics are responding to a crossing guard who slipped, injured her knee and is lying in the middle of the road.
Students are tweeting ARLnow.com saying their buses are running late or are getting stuck. Others say their school bus never showed up at all.
There have been police reports of school buses getting stuck in various locations, including near Oak Ridge Elementary and on 16th Street S. at S. Taylor Street.
The following roads have been closed by police due to cars getting stuck on hills:
- 14th Street N. between Kirkwood and Kenmore
- S. Adams Street between 25th and 26th
- Wilson Blvd at N. Larrimore Street
- 16th Street between Taylor and Stafford
- N. Patrick Henry Drive at 9th
- 8th Road S. at Dinwiddie
- N. McKinley Road north of Wilson Blvd (several accidents reported)
Drivers and residents have been tweeting reports of accidents and stuck vehicles.
— Alana Sawyer (@AlanaSawyerDC) January 6, 2015
— David Kinney (@dnak17) January 6, 2015
— David Kinney (@dnak17) January 6, 2015
— Titoo (@_medinaugly4lif) January 6, 2015
— Titoo (@_medinaugly4lif) January 6, 2015
— JBurd (@jnburd) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom multiple cars having trouble getting up Wilson Hill in Rosslyn next to Hyatt
— Ben (@WASHDCBEN) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom art 77 and 16y (and another one) stuck at 6th and courthouse road south.
— C J (@hoborocks) January 6, 2015
avoid s. walter reed drive near shirlington. superman hill is a nightmare @ARLnowDOTcom
— Ashley Goff (@goffashley) January 6, 2015
— regular r (@cybersmell) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom I have kids who take 3 different APS buses – not one showed up this morning. I've declared our own snow day.
— kc (@klcmurphy) January 6, 2015
@ARLnowDOTcom Our officers are working numerous accidents around the County. Drive slowly and seek alt transportation options, if possible.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) January 6, 2015
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) January 6, 2015
Trash collection is being delayed until later in the day today, according to the Dept. of Environmental Services.
A “ground stop” was in place for flights at Reagan National Airport for part of the morning. As of 8:50 a.m., the airport said the main runway had been treated and “our operations are back to normal.”
While numerous problems have been reported on the roads, at least one bike trail was well-treated this morning.
— BikeArlington (@BikeArlington) January 6, 2015
— BikeArlington (@BikeArlington) January 6, 2015
The National Weather Service belatedly issued a Winter Storm Warning just after 9:00 a.m.
… WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM EST THIS AFTERNOON…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM EST THIS AFTERNOON. THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… SNOW… HEAVY AT TIMES.
* ACCUMULATIONS… 4 TO 6 INCHES.
* TIMING… UNTIL 1 PM. THE HEAVIEST SNOW WILL BE THROUGH 11 AM.
* TEMPERATURES… LOW 20S.
* WINDS… VARIABLE 5 MPH.
* IMPACTS… HEAVY SNOW ACCUMULATING ON ALL SURFACES WELL BELOW FREEZING AND VISIBILITY BELOW HALF MILE WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE FOR VERY HAZARDOUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS.
A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN AN EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL… KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT… FOOD… AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.
Donnellan made the recommendation at today’s County Board meeting, after being charged by the Board earlier this year to study Artisphere and suggest a way forward for the money-losing, county-run center.
“I will be recommending that the county close the Artisphere as a cultural center in fiscal year 2016,” Donnellan said. “This was a business decision… this was a tough decision, a disappointing one. The reality is that the Artisphere has not lived up to projections.”
Donnellan said Artisphere, in her opinion, would require “substantial ongoing tax support.”
“That is not what we promised our community when we opened Artisphere,” she said. Artisphere will remain open through June 30. It will close after that, if the County Board adopts Donnellan’s recommendation. After Donnellan gave her report, it became clear that the Board was behind her decision and it’s likely the art center will close on June 30.
“I support what you suggested, that next June, Artisphere would close as we know it,” Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “My hope is whatever option will move forward on our economic competitiveness goals one way or another.”
County Board member John Vihstadt, who had used the Artisphere as an example of wasteful county spending in his election campaign this year, obliquely referenced the county’s cancellation of the streetcar last month.
“I think we all realize the changing course on a long community initiative, as has happened in the last few years and months, is never easy,” he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting had adjourned, he added, “I think it was the right decision. I was concerned about the Artisphere all along.”
County staff will be studying options for sub-leasing Artisphere to a private company or a private-public partnership in the “arts, media, technology” space, or returning it to landlord Monday Properties, Donnellan said.
She called the recommendation “a repositioning, not a retreat.” County staff will be tasked with coming up with a new art plan for the county, one that reflects current fiscal realities.
“Smart communities know when to reevaluate decisions,” Donnellan said.
The 62,000 square foot facility opened with a flourish, at a cost of $6.7 million in October 2010. Optimistic projections of a quarter million annual visitors quickly crashed down to earth in 2011. Visitor revenue was 75 percent below expectations, and Artisphere’s in-house restaurant closed after just a few months in business.
Arlington Economic Development assumed control of Artisphere by the end of 2011, and began implementing a business plan that included shorter hours and actively renting the facility for non-art-related events. The changes were successful by some measures, but problems remained — the facility again went over budget in Fiscal Year 2013. Last month, County Board allocated $1.3 million in its annual budget close-out for Artisphere-related expenses next year.
Donnellan told reporters after her report that 20 part-time and 12 full-time staff work at Artisphere, and some may be able to continue working in other areas of the county, but there will be some who lose their jobs.
The County Board may officially decide to close Artisphere before its April budget motion, Vihstadt said, and Donnellan said she will soon begin discussions with Monday Properties about the space’s future.
This evening, Donnellan will ask the Board to approve a $5 million loan to another art center, Signature Theatre. She said the two recommendations are “business decisions” and should be looked at separately.
(Updated at 10:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a possible homicide in the Westover neighborhood.
A man and a woman were found dead this afternoon in a garden-style apartment building on the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street, three blocks from Swanson Middle School. Homicide investigators are on the scene, taking photos and gathering evidence.
Police believe the deaths are suspicious. It’s possibly a case of murder-suicide, but that has not yet been confirmed, a police source tells ARLnow.com. According to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm, “there’s no immediate threat to the community.”
Police initially responded to the scene around 4:00 p.m. for a call to check on the welfare of an apartment resident, Malcolm said. According to the building’s landlord, who declined to be identified, a window in the apartment had been open “for a few days” and the tenant had missed the last rent payment, which was “not like her,” he said.
It has been more than two years since the last murder in Arlington. The last confirmed homicide in the county was the death of 87-year-old Mack L. Wood on Oct. 13, 2012.
Police are not releasing the identities of the deceased nor the cause of death until family members can be notified. ACPD issued the following statement about the investigation Monday night.
The Arlington County Police Department’s Robbery/Homicide Unit is investigating the suspicious deaths of two Arlington County residents.
At 3:57 p.m., Arlington County Police received a “check on the welfare” call for a resident who resides in the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street. Responding officers were able to gain entry into the locked apartment utilizing a key. The bodies of two victims, a 29-year old male and a 31-year old female, were discovered inside. Detectives and crime scene technicians are on scene conducting the ongoing investigation.
At this time, there does not appear to be an immediate threat to the community.
(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 still cannot 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.