Last night, around 10:00 p.m., an SUV somehow crashed through a barrier on the south side of the Memorial Bridge and landed in the Potomac River.
The driver, the SUV’s lone occupant, escaped the watery wreck and was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Charges are now pending against the driver, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks.
If you’ve ever feared making a wrong turn and driving off the side of a bridge, AAA Mid-Atlantic has some potentially helpful tips for you. From a press release:
Although they are considered worst-case scenarios, such crashes rarely happen, safety officials and experts say. But that’s of little consolation to local drivers when their vehicle suddenly goes deep six or becomes a leaking boat. What you do and how you react within moments of the crash into the abyss will determine whether you live or die in a watery grave, the auto club advises. “Add darkness and near freezing water, and your chances of escape have greatly diminished,” safety experts warns.
“Although less than one-half of one percent of all automobile crashes involves a vehicle being submerged under water, it is still a very frightening situation to motorists and their terrified passengers, especially young children and the elderly,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Previous research shows that between 400 to 600 persons lose their lives each year in the United States, as their vehicles plummet into a canal, river, or a ditch for that matter.”
Annually, almost ten percent of all drowning deaths in the United States can be attributed to being submerged in a car. If children are in the car, the driver or the adult should focus on getting the children out safely first and keeping them from panicking during the petrifying ordeal. In most crashes of this nature, the heaviest end of the deep-sixed vehicle – usually the end with the engine – will begin sinking first, pulling the car down at an angle, notes Popular Mechanic. That is, unless the water is 15 feet or deeper. In that case, the vehicle may land on its roof, compounding the dangers and risks for the occupants.
Although most vehicles will float for three or four minutes before they start sinking due to the surprising buoyancy of the vehicle in deep water and depending upon on the airtightness of the vehicles, time is still of the essence, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. The overarching concern is getting to dry land as quickly as possible. Your safety and the lives of your passengers depend upon that.
So, the first key to surviving such a mishap is remaining calm, according to safety experts. Underscoring this, the National Safety Commission puts it this way: “The first and most important thing to remember, if your vehicle is submerged, is to remain CALM – easier said than done-but it’s the most important thing you can do to stay alive.” However, the experts tend to vary on their tips. For example, the brothers Magliozzi, Tom and Ray, of NPR’s “Car Talk” say: “The correct way to get out of a sinking car is to float in the cabin until water is within about 2 inches of the roof. At that time pressure in and outside the car will be equal and it will be easy to open the door and swim out.”
- Don’t panic. Once your car hits the water it will not sink immediately (You will have at least one or two minutes before the car begins to sink, safety experts say).
- If possible, jump out while car is on surface.
- If your car is still floating, roll down the window and unbuckle your seat belt to escape.
- If your car is submerged, safety experts suggest remaining buckled up while you break the driver or passenger’s side window to escape.
- Allow the pressure of the water to equalize inside the sodden vehicle before attempting to open the doors or windows. Water weighs 62.4 lbs. per cubic foot.
- Move toward rear of vehicle where the air bubble is forming.
- Water pressure against the water-logged doors will make opening the doors very difficult until the pressure inside of the vehicle and outside of the vehicle are equal.
- Open your windows to allow yourself and your passengers to escape (Contrary to popular opinion, the “power windows won’t stop working within seconds after impact.” The power can stay on as along as 10 minutes).
The nightmarish crash from the Memorial Bridge is a reminder to motorists of the importance of carrying and keeping a sharp tool, such as a Philips screwdriver or a spring-loaded center punch, in their glove compartment or in the cabin of their vehicle. The tool is a life-saver. Here’s why: it allows you to break the tempered glass to extricate yourself and your passengers from the sinking vehicle. Other salient tips include:
- If the windows are blocked, try to push the windshield or rear window out with your feet or shoulder.
- Rescue the children or passengers who need assistance to help them to escape. If children are in the sinking or submerged car, unbuckle their seatbelts and or child passenger seat, starting with the oldest child first.
- Safeguard the kids. Push the children out of the vehicle ahead of you.
- Always keep a window-breaking tool in your vehicle in an easily accessible location, safety experts suggest.
- Remove heavy clothing before attempting to swim to safety.
- Swim to the surface as safely and quickly as possible (swim in the direction of the current if you’re in deep water).
- Push off for quick rise to the surface.
- If you can’t swim try to float. Use your body’s natural buoyancy to float. Make sure to raise your head to breathe.
- Call for medical attention as quickly as possible.
Ironically, just last week crews from the Federal Highway Administration reportedly began an “extensive inspection of the deck of the iconic 80-year-old Arlington Memorial Bridge, a process that is expected to continue through March 5. In September the 2,163 feet long bridge underwent a two month long renovation, costing $788,375, to repair and replace its entire driving surface.
Photos courtesy Mark P.
SUV Runs Off Memorial Bridge – An SUV drove off the Memorial Bridge and plunged into the Potomac around 10:00 last night. The driver was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police. A bridge barrier was damaged and the bridge was closed by police until the early morning hours. [WJLA, Washington Post]
‘Ballston Southern Gateway’ Plan Approved – The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved an addendum to its North Quincy Street Plan, which is designed “to transform the southern gateway of Ballston from an automobile-oriented area into a more pedestrian-friendly, great urban place.” The plan calls for higher residential and commercial buildings in the area around the Harris Teeters and the Mercedes Benz dealership. [Arlington County]
Supreme Court to Consider DNA Practice that Helped ACPD – The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider the constitutionality of a DNA practice that helped Arlington County Police link former Marine Jorge Torrez, accused of raping an Arlington woman and leaving her for dead, with the murder of two girls in Illinois. The high court will consider whether taking a DNA sample from someone arrested for a serious crime — before they’re convicted — is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. [Los Angeles Times]
Board: We Can’t Sway Cemetery Expansion – Responding to the concerns of tree lovers over the weekend, members of the Arlington County Board said they have little power to sway the Army’s decision to expand Arlington National Cemetery. As originally planned, the expansion would cut down nearly 900 trees from an old growth forest on the cemetery grounds. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently re-evaluating its plan after complaints from tree advocates. [Sun Gazette]
Transpo Plan a ‘Big Win’ for McDonnell – Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) scored a big win with the passage of a compromise version of his transportation funding plan, according to Politico. But anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist decried the various tax increases in the bill, which could cost the average Virginia family between $10 and $15 per month. “The Democrats in the legislature mugged him good,” Norquist said of McDonnell. [Politico, Washington Post]
Photos: Demolition of Old Arlington Courthouse – On its blog, the library looks back at the demolition of the old Arlington County Courthouse building on Feb. 23, 1997. [Arlington Public Library]
Photo courtesy @mowdymichelle
Author to Discuss Potomac River — Local author Garrett Peck will discuss his book, The Potomac River: A History and a Guide, at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) tonight. The free event will be held at the library’s auditorium from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. [Arlington Public Library]
Yorktown Wins, Again — The Yorktown Patriots varsity football squad chalked up another big win on Friday. The team defeated the Herndon Hornets by a score of 51-21. Bishop O’Connell also won on Friday, beating the St. Mary’s Ryken 17-13 on the road. Washington-Lee and Wakefield both lost. [Sun Gazette]
Cuccinelli Coming to Arlington for Constitution Day — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will celebrate today’s Constitution Day observance with the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans. The group is hosting Cuccinelli at RiRa Irish Pub (2915 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon starting at 7:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Boat Capsizes Under 14th Street Bridge — A boat capsized under the 14th Street Bridge just before Saturday afternoon’s storms. D.C. police rescued 19 people from the water. No injuries were reported. [Associated Press]
Work on Memorial Bridge Begins — The National Park Service is beginning a project to repair the concrete deck, curbs and sidewalks of the Memorial Bridge today. Drivers can expect lane closures on the bridge between 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on weekdays, and throughout the weekend. [WJLA]
Yorktown Routs Wakefield — The Yorktown High School Patriots defeated the Wakefield Warriors 59-6 on Friday night. Arlington’s other high school, Washington-Lee, defeated Fairfax by a score of 13-7. [Sun Gazette, MaxPreps]
Upgrades Planned for Reagan National — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is planning to spend $45 million to upgrade the aging Terminal A at Reagan National Airport. Planned upgrades include wider security checkpoints, more baggage handling areas, updated ticket counters and better bathrooms. The MWAA is also studying the possibility of adding more parking spaces at the airport. [Washington Examiner]
Fall Sports Registration Begins Tomorrow — Registration for fall sports and classes in Arlington begins tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8:00 a.m. The fall 2012 “Enjoy Arlington!” catalog is available online. [Department of Parks and Recreation]
Arlington Devises Runoff Plan — Arlington has devised a plan for reducing stormwater runoff to the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollutants in the bay. Among other methods, Arlington is planning to reduce runoff by creating more stormwater-retaining greenscapes in public right of ways. [Washington Post]
APS Gets New Instruction Chief — Donna Snyder, formerly the interim principal at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School, has been named the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction for Arlington Public Schools. [Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Because all of Arlington’s land along the Potomac River is actually NPS property, the EIS is mandatory by law. It formally began earlier this year, and assesses the impact a boathouse for non-motorized crafts would have on the natural and cultural resources in the area.
During the public comment portion, which began this week, residents are asked to examine the options in the proposal and voice suggestions or concerns.
There are four possible sites included in the proposal. Two options involve building the boathouse near the Key Bridge in Rosslyn, and another looks at a space near Gravelly Point. One alternative examines Daingerfield Island, which is in Alexandria. The final option is to take no action, meaning no boathouse would be constructed.
The proposal includes a facility with indoor space for storing equipment, training areas and floating docks. The plan has been in the works for years to ease the burden on boathouses in Alexandria and Washington, D.C., all of which are said to be operating at capacity.
A public scoping meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 24, at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street). From 6:30-8:30 p.m., NPS employees will be present to answer questions and to accept written comments.
The various proposals can be viewed online and feedback can be submitted there as well. The public comment period ends on Friday, August 31. If all goes according to plan, the EIS will continue through winter of 2013.
The decades-long mission to build a boathouse for non-motorized vehicles on Arlington’s side of the Potomac River has moved one step closer to reality. After several failed attempts, an environmental impact study is now underway.
Arlington cannot proceed with building a boathouse without approval from the National Park Service, because the waterfront land along this side of the Potomac River actually belongs to NPS. By law, NPS is required to perform a study about how such a venture would impact the cultural and natural resources in the area.
Estimated to take from two to three years, an environmental impact study is the longer and more thorough of two main studies that can be performed. The other is an environmental assessment, which is done on less controversial matters and typically takes one to two years. Environmental assessments had previously been initiated for an Arlington boathouse, but due to various limiting factors including staffing and lack of resources, they were scrapped. This time, all involved parties are dedicated to seeing the EIS through.
“The real emphasis is to make sure it’s really done thoroughly,” said National Park Service Environmental Protection Specialist Thomas Sheffer. “Because with a couple of false starts, we want to make sure this comes to a conclusion.”
The process was re-initiated in late summer, and Arlington was approved as a cooperating agency in the fall. A federal register notice has been submitted, but the process cannot move forward until the notice is officially approved and posted publicly.
Three main sites are being examined for the boathouse. The first is called “Lower Rosslyn” and consists of the area directly along the river near the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt Island. The second is called “Upper Rosslyn,” close to where Lee Highway, I-66 and the Key Bridge converge. A multi-level hybrid of the two Rosslyn locations could be a possibility. Another site is Gravelly Point, which allows for a more spacious facility but has less ideal conditions for rowers because of wind and motorized boats. Daingerfield Island, though not in Arlington County, is also being considered.
After the EIS concludes and a site is chosen, it will be some time before Arlington residents actually get to use a finished boathouse. Public meetings would ensue, followed by final approval of a plan, and a competitive process to find a company to construct the boathouse. Considering the EIS portion isn’t even expected to be finished before the winter of 2013, a completed structure is likely years away. Additionally, the entire idea could be abandoned if no sites are deemed acceptable. However, Arlington is hopeful the boathouse will eventually reach fruition.
“The County is excited to be at this point in the process and excited about the opportunity presented by the Park Service to be an operating agency in the EIS,” Arlington County Federal Liaison Brian Stout said. “It appears they’re taking a very thoughtful approach to this.”
The Park Service has voiced a number of concerns about development on Arlington’s side of the Potomac. Some of those include harm to species along the river, negative impact on cultural sites such as Theodore Roosevelt Island and the area’s position along a flood plane. Arlington County thinks the concerns are valid, but can be worked around.
“We think they can be overcome, and there are answers,” said Stout. “We think there are a lot of ways for us to achieve all of the goals of increased access to the water while staying true to the Park Service goals as well.” (more…)
Despite dozens of flooded basements and a couple of thousand Dominion customers without power, Arlington was largely spared the flooded roads and swift water rescues that took place elsewhere in Northern Virginia.
In fact, Arlington firefighters were able to help out neighboring jurisdictions like Falls Church, Fairfax County and Alexandria during the worst of flooding last night.
That’s not to say, however, that there was no flooding in Arlington. These photos, many of which were taken along Four Mile Run and the W&OD Trail, show just how bad things got.
Photos courtesy Brendan L. and Anonymous
It’s sort of like the “Adopt-a-Highway” program, but without the corresponding road signs.
Arlington has launched an “Adopt-a-Street” program that allows civic-minded residents and organizations to commit to picking up litter and debris along a road of their choosing. After signing up, volunteers receive safety and cleaning supplies, a five gallon collection bucket and scheduled pickups of collected debris.
Adopters are asked to perform their cleaning duties on a quarterly or as-needed basis, with a minimum one year commitment.
The program, which is run by the county’s Solid Waste Bureau, is intended to reduce storm water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with minimal cost to taxpayers. Supplies for the program have been purchased through sponsorships, the county says.
Two Arlington athletes were among the top finishers at a grueling 50-mile endurance race over the weekend.
The GORE-TEX 50 Mile race, part of the North Face Endurance Challenge series, took runners on a long, rugged trail course spanning Algonkian Regional Park, Great Falls Park and the Potomac Heritage Trail.
Ragan Petrie of Arlington was the top female finisher, with a time of 7:33:59. She was 11th overall in the field of nearly 250. Arlington resident and distance running phenom Michael Wardian (pictured) placed third overall with a time of 6:03:14. Matt Woods of Falls Church placed first with a time of 5:59:07.
Petrie and Woods will receive a $1,000 prize and head to San Francisco in December to compete in the Endurance Challenge championship. (This weekend’s race was one of four regional races leading to the championship.)
Photo via Twitter
Davies Driver Sentenced in Crash — The driver in the fatal 2009 George Washington Parkway crash that left soccer star Charlie Davies severely injured was sentenced to two years in prison Friday. Maria Espinoza was drunk when the SUV she was driving hit a guardrail near Memorial Bridge and split in half, killing her best friend and leaving Davies maimed. Davies, now playing for DC United, scored two goals in the team’s home opener at RFK Stadium on Saturday. [ESPN, NY Times, Washington Post]
Arlington Woman Rescued from Potomac River — An Arlington woman was rescued by the Coast Guard after her kayak overturned in the Georgetown Channel, near Key Bridge, just before noon on Sunday. The woman, identified at 61-year-old Jenie Upchurch, was reportedly struggling to stay afloat when a Coast Guard vessel arrived at the scene and threw her a life ring. [U.S. Coast Guard]
APS Principal of the Year Named – Arlington Science Focus School principal Mary Begley has been named the Arlington Public Schools 2011 Principal of the Year. [Arlington Public Schools]
Pet Dove Eaten By Hawk — A pet dove named “Paci” was out enjoying the great outdoors in Alcova Heights last weekend when, according to the Ode Street Tribune, a hawk swooped in and put an abrupt end to her peaceful existence. [Ode Street Tribune]
A man reportedly fell and injured himself on one of the rocky cliffs overlooking the Potomac near Chain Bridge this afternoon. The Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter and an Arlington County technical rescue squad were dispatched to the scene to help rescue the man after it was reported that he was trapped.
Paramedics are now walking the man to safety.
Due to the emergency response, police are directing traffic on Glebe Road just before Chain Bridge. Expect delays in the area for the next few minutes.
A belated hat tip to J.A.
Thanks to shifting political winds and dogged determination, the decades-long quest to get a boathouse built on the Arlington side of the Potomac may finally result in action on the part of the federal government.
The National Park Service is expected to launch an extensive environmental and historical impact study for potential boathouse locations in the next several months, the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy but, at last, finite process.
The impact study would likely wrap up by the end of 2011. If it the boathouse then gets the go-ahead, and if funding can be secured for the project, the Park Service would seek bids for the planning, building and daily operation of the boathouse.
In other words, don’t hold your breath.
“We’re still a very, very long way away from the finish line, even if it is approved,” said Brian Stout, Arlington County’s federal government liaison. “There will be a lot of issues for them to study.”
The Park Service is a central player in the boathouse process because it controls most of the riverfront land in Arlington County. The Park Service would be responsible for building and running the boathouse, but county leaders hope the agency would allow “robust community and public access” to the facility. Among the local groups chomping at the bit for a new boathouse are Arlington’s three public high school rowing teams (Yorktown, Washington-Lee and Wakefield), which currently pay for access to crowded boating facilities in the District.
Stout says the county hopes the Park Service would choose to build the boathouse just north the the Roosevelt Island parking lot, near the pedestrian access from the Mount Vernon Trail to Key Bridge. That part of the river is uniquely suited for rowing facilities, he said.
Three-Year-Old Boy Drowns Near Chain Bridge — The Arlington County Fire Department pulled the lifeless body of a 3-year-old boy from the Potomac River yesterday afternoon. He was pronounced dead at Virginia Hospital Center. The boy had been picnicking with his family near Chain Bridge when he somehow ended up in the water. More from TBD/ABC 7.
Alaska Plane Crash Survivor from Arlington Back in Va. — Friends and family were on hand at Dulles Airport to welcome Arlington resident Jim Morhard back to Virginia. The 54-year-old lobbyist is still recovering from injuries he sustained in the plane crash that killed former Alaska senator Ted Stevens. More from WUSA 9.
Students Will Have Option to Transfer from Certain Elementary Schools — After their neighborhood elementary schools failed to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards for two years in a row, parents will have the option of sending their kids to nearby schools with a better track record. More from the Sun Gazette.
An Arlington man drowned outside a riverside restaurant in Dumfries, Va. early Saturday morning.
Police were called to Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant at 1:32 a.m., after the man walked away from a group he was with and had not returned for at least half an hour, Prince William County police spokesman Jonathan Perok said.
Members of the department’s marine unit and dive team found the man’s body floating in the Potomac River near the restaurant, Perok said.
Police identified the victim as 74-year-old Shelton Carl Burstrom of Arlington.
An autopsy is scheduled to be performed this afternoon to determine the cause of death. Police do not suspect foul play.