Update at 4:00 p.m. — The Department of Environmental Services says all of its trucks are back out this afternoon to spread salt and make sure snow and ice are melting on residential streets. A small team will remain on standby overnight to address any possible areas that may re-freeze.
Earlier — All of the weather advisories for Arlington County have been cancelled and the snow has stopped falling, but the storm’s effects still linger around the county.
VDOT reports having more than 1,900 trucks clearing state roads throughout Northern Virginia. Arlington County sent out crews on its streets beginning at 4:00 a.m. to treat primary and secondary roads. Traffic cameras show most major roads are clear and traffic is largely moving smoothly throughout the county as of 2:00 p.m. Drivers are encouraged to exercise extra caution through tomorrow because temperatures will drop and slush on the roads could freeze.
The Arlington County government remained open but the following services have been affected:
- Trash/Recycling/Brush collection crews are performing collection services. If they are unable to get to certain streets because of the street conditions, they will go back and complete collection tomorrow.
- Vacuum leaf collection has been canceled for today. Collection will resume in zone three tomorrow.
- Bag leaf collection crews are out collecting leaves today. If crews are unable to get to certain streets because of the conditions, they will also go back and complete the collections tomorrow.
- Mulch deliveries for today have been rescheduled for tomorrow. Customers have been notified.
ART buses had been operating on a limited schedule earlier today and they returned to normal by late morning.
According to the Arlington County Police Department, Public Service Aides still will enforce parking regulations. Parking enforcement is in place every day the county government is open for business. However, Public Service Aides only will be used for parking enforcement duties today when they are not busy assisting police with necessary functions related to winter weather.
Although officers and emergency responders are out in full force to assist with emergencies, residents are asked to remain off the roads for safety reasons.
“Residents are encouraged to stay off the roads today and minimize their traveling if possible,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “If they need to go out then they are encouraged to use public transportation in an attempt to minimize accidents, road congestion and so that county staff and road crews can perform their jobs as safely as possible.”
Arlington Public Schools closed today and so far no decision has been made about Wednesday. From APS:
“APS will continue to monitor the road conditions in collaboration with Arlington County and our regional partners throughout the remainder of the day, tonight and early tomorrow morning. If APS opens on time on Wed, Dec. 11, we will go forward with the previously-announced school calendar, including the scheduled countywide elementary early release. If schools have a two-hour delayed opening tomorrow, the elementary early release will be cancelled and school will end at the normal dismissal time, in accordance with our normal procedures.”
(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Forecasters tweaked their predictions overnight for what intensity of storm they expect to hit the D.C. region today. While there’s still some uncertainty, it appears the impact will be less than originally anticipated.
The latest forecast from the Capital Weather Gang suggests the area could experience drizzle in the morning, changing to light snow in the afternoon, but with little accumulation. It’s expected that areas south of Arlington will get the heaviest snow, but that could change if the storm suddenly surges north.
According to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel, crews began equipping vehicles with snow removal equipment yesterday. The preparations will continue today, and a crew will be on hand for snow removal this evening if necessary. Should conditions worsen later tonight, another crew will come in and work overnight into Friday morning.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory this morning for much of the region, including Arlington. It runs today from 2:00-11:00 p.m. The Winter Storm Watch issued by the NWS yesterday has been canceled.
……WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT FROM 2 PM THIS AFTERNOON
TO 11 PM EST THIS EVENING…
* PRECIPITATION TYPE…SNOW.
* ACCUMULATIONS…1 TO 3 INCHES. THE HIGHEST AMOUNTS WILL BE SOUTH
OF WASHINGTON DC.
* TIMING…RAIN THIS MORNING WILL MIX WITH AND THEN CHANGE TO SNOW
DURING THE MID AFTERNOON. SNOW MAY BE LOCALLY HEAVY AT TIMES…
ESPECIALLY SOUTH OF WASHINGTON DC. SNOW WILL COME TO AN END
LATE THIS EVENING.
* TEMPERATURES…FALLING TO THE MID 30S LATE THIS AFTERNOON.
* WINDS…NORTHWEST 5 TO 10 MPH.
* IMPACTS…ROADS MAY BECOME SNOW COVERED DURING THE EVENING RUSH
HOUR…ESPECIALLY SOUTH OF WASHINGTON DC.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW
WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SNOW
COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES…AND USE CAUTION WHILE
Crews are out today pre-treating roads with a brine solution. They’re focusing on primary (red) and secondary (blue) routes, which can be seen on the county’s online 2012-2013 snow map. Workers will deploy from 4:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. tomorrow to treat and plow roads as necessary during the storm.
Although areas north and west of D.C. may get around 4 inches of snow, significant accumulation isn’t expected in Arlington. The Capital Weather Gang’s forecast currently calls for a warm up on Saturday afternoon that should change the snow to rain or a wintry mix. However, a snow crew will remain on call through Sunday morning to treat icy roads in case a re-freeze occurs.
The Department of Environmental Services encourages residents to stay informed and to be prepared with extra food and water in case the storm worsens. Residents are also asked to avoid parking on the street, if possible, or to coordinate with neighbors to only park on one side of the street. Snow removal vehicles need a width of at least 15 feet to pass down a street.
The National Weather Service issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the D.C. area, noting that it’s still unclear exactly where the worst of the storm will hit. An excerpt from the advisory follows:
.THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR THE MARYLAND PORTION OF THE
CHESAPEAKE BAY…TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER…AND ADJACENT COUNTIES IN
CENTRAL MARYLAND AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA AS WELL AS THE DISTRICT OF
DAY ONE…TODAY AND TONIGHT
A STORM SYSTEM WILL BRING WINTRY PRECIPITATION TO THE AREA LATE
TONIGHT. THE HIGHEST CONFIDENCE OF ACCUMULATING SNOWFALL RESIDES
ACROSS PORTIONS OF CENTRAL MARYLAND WHERE A WINTER WEATHER
ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT BEGINNING LATE TONIGHT. PLEASE REFER TO
WBCWSWLWX FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN…SATURDAY THROUGH THURSDAY
THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR PORTIONS OF CENTRAL MARYLAND
CONTINUES ON SATURDAY. FURTHER SOUTH INCLUDING THE GREATER
WASHINGTON METRO AREA…THERE REMAINS SOME UNCERTAINTY REGARDING
WHERE THE RAIN/SNOW LINE WILL SET UP AND EXACTLY HOW MUCH SNOW
WILL FALL. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MAY
NEED TO BE EXPANDED FURTHER SOUTH…SO PLEASE MONITOR THE LATEST
A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY MAY BE NEEDED FOR PORTIONS OF THE WATERS
LATE SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY.
Tomorrow (Dec. 21) is the first day of winter, and Arlington County says it’s prepared to deal with wintry weather when it finally arrives in the area.
Although nothing more than a few possible snowflakes is in the forecast at this time, the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services says it will have its 46 snow plows and 92 drivers ready when the white stuff does begin to accumulate. And the county website has some new features to keep residents abreast of road conditions and snow plow progress.
From a county press release:
Arlington County is gearing up for winter weather by refining and reintroducing a number of tools to keep residents informed when winter weather strikes, including more traffic cameras, the Snow Removal Phase System, and the Snow and Ice Central web page .
Once the forecast calls for winter weather — snow, ice or freezing rain — Arlington preps its plows and salt trucks and the snow team is ready to go. During a storm, Arlington’s snow crews focus on keeping main arteries passable for emergency vehicles and public transportation (red primary routes). The team includes 92 drivers and 46 trucks equipped with salt spreaders and plows. Four of the trucks also are equipped with salt brine sprayers.
This year Arlington will be using a more environmentally-friendly salt brine solution to pre-treat our roadways. The less corrosive liquid magnesium chloride and salt mixture is used in lower temperatures when it is most effective. And when we do need to use salt or sand, crews adjust equipment to ensure only the proper amount is dispensed.
Snow Phases Provide County Removal Status
For a second season, Arlington will implement a phase system in order to share information about snow operations and removal. With the system, residents can check a storm’s progress, track the County’s efforts to clear streets, and determine how to best prepare for the winter weather. The current phase will be posted on the County web site and social media channels. For snow removal updates, follow the Department of Environmental Services on Facebook or Twitter.
More Traffic Cameras to Monitor Road Conditions
This year, the County has nearly doubled the number of traffic cameras monitoring road conditions. Introduced in 2011, the traffic camera web page offers real-time views, major intersections and other key locations. With access to real-time road conditions, drivers are able to make informed decisions about traveling during and after a winter weather storm. The Snow and Ice Central page features 40 more cameras this year, for a total of 83 traffic cameras.
Snow Removal Ordinance
The County’s Snow Removal Ordinance requires all Arlington property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property within a designated time period. To learn more about the ordinance, read the FAQs.
ACFD Food Drive Ends Friday — The Arlington County Fire Department’s food drive, which began on December 1, will end this Friday, December 21. So far, ACFD has collected more than 1,200 pounds of food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Non-perishable food can be donated at all Arlington and Falls Church fire departments, and at the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
County Hopes Residents Remove Snow to Avoid Fines — Arlington officials are reminding residents that it could be another year that snow piles up and needs to be removed from sidewalks. The county hopes residents follow the snow removal ordinance that was put in place in 2010. Failure to remove snow is a civil infraction that holds fines of $50-100, and moving snow from private property into public areas (like streets) is a Class 4 misdemeanor. So far, no tickets have been issued under the ordinance. [Sun Gazette]
Sandy Hook School Fundraiser — Whitlow’s (2854 Wilson Blvd) is hosting a fundraiser tonight (December 19) to raise money for families affected by Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The effort was spearheaded by alumni from Virginia Tech who were students during that school’s deadly shooting in 2007. All proceeds from the event will go to the Sandy Hook School Support fund. There will also be a table set up for patrons to make cards to be sent to the community in Connecticut. [Hokies for Sandy Hook]
Forecasters have been predicting some sort of precipitation on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether it will be mainly snow or rain. As is often the case in our area, weather models are changing by the hour. Don’t get your hopes up for a repeat of the Presidents Day Blizzard of 2003 — but do plan on the chance of the season’s most significant snowfall.
In advance of the possible storm, the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services has issued a Phase 1 Alert, meaning crews will pre-treat roads with salt or brine as necessary. They’re also preparing snow removal equipment and personnel for the weekend.
Dominion Virginia Power also reports making preparations. Trucks are being stocked and fueled, and crews are ready to respond to outages. Customers can call 1-866-DOM-HELP to report outages and downed lines.
Coincidentally, Arlington County started its annual snow training this week. Workers have been hooking up trucks, doing some trial runs and making sure all equipment is ready for the season.
Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Operating Engineer Dave Hundelt said, “Conveniently we get a random forecast for flurries or light rain/snow and overnight temps right near freezing for this weekend.”
Hundelt says Arlington doesn’t plan on mobilizing its plow or salting teams this weekend because the pavement temperatures will remain well above freezing. That prevents any precipitation from sticking to the ground or causing major driving issues. However, if the forecast changes and conditions worsen, crews could be expected to mobilize.
Currently, Arlington is not included in the winter storm watches or warnings issued by the National Weather Service for many surrounding counties. Although that could change, right now there is only a chance for a light snow shower or a rain/snow mix around here. Due to the uncertainty of the storm, most weather experts are putting the chances of snow on Saturday around 50-50.
Fall snowstorms are worrisome because trees haven’t yet shed all their leaves, making the branches heavy and susceptible to snapping off as a result of accumulation. This traditionally makes autumn snow more dangerous than winter storms.
The last time the metro area experienced a significant snowstorm in October was back on October 10, 1979.
Update at 12:05 p.m. — The county has informed us that the previous numbers we were given were wrong. The article now reflects the updated numbers.
Last week’s snow and ice storm has resulted in a total of 679 complaints to Arlington County through its new Report a Snow Issue form, according to the county’s Department of Environmental Services.
As of last night, here’s the breakdown of what citizens are reporting:
- 406 — This street has never been plowed or needs additional plowing
- 189 — Sidewalk concern
- 52 — Other
- 32 — This street is icy
By comparison, TBD reported that 30 complaints were submitted after 2-3 inches of snow fell on Dec. 16.
The county’s new snow removal ordinance says that snow and ice must be removed from public sidewalks 24 hours after precipitation stops falling. So far, however, no fines have been issued as a result of the ordinance.
“Our collective focus this year has been on education and compliance,” said Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. “To date, there have not been any civil infractions issued according to Code Enforcement.”
Chamber Questions HOT Lanes Lawsuit — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce says ending the county’s lawsuit against the I-395 HOT lanes project is one of its public policy priorities for 2011. “We find it kind of bizarre that the county has taken the actions that they have,” Chamber President Rich Doud told the Washington Examiner. “As far as I can tell, they don’t have many friends agreeing with them on this from outside Arlington, and I guess counting us, not many friends inside Arlington, either.”
Costly Sunday Snow Preps — Arlington County brought in 150 employees over a 24 hour period to prepare for an expected Sunday snowstorm. The snow ended up skipping the Washington area on its way up to Philly, New York and New England. More from TBD.
Legislators to Address Civic Federation — The Arlington County Civic Federation has invited Arlington’s legislative delegation to address the organization’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4. No word yet on which of the county’s four delegates and two state senators will speak. The meeting will also feature a discussion about Arlington’s new snow removal policy with representatives from the county and from Dominion Virginia Power.
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) As the Washington area prepares for the first actual, bona fide snowfall of the season tomorrow, Arlington County has revealed some additional guidance for how it intends to enforce its new snow removal ordinance.
The ordinance calls for snow and ice to be removed from sidewalks within 24 to 36 hours of precipitation ending.
The chief means for enforcement of the ordinance will, essentially, be neighbors tattling on each other, via a new web-based reporting form.
Citizens will fill in the address of the problem area, refining it as necessary by clicking on a map. Then they will select from four preset “concerns” — either a concerns about the street or a sidewalk. Finally, users will type in their name and — optionally — contact information (for follow-ups, not for public dissemination) and press a submit button.
The complaint will go to county staff, who will review it and dispatch code enforcement agents as necessary.
According to Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier, enforcement agents will, at first, “try to give notification and warning” in lieu of the $50-$100 fine called for in the ordinance.
“They will try to find the entity that would be responsible for that sidewalk and try to make contact with that person to say ‘do you know we have a new ordinance?’” she said. Allgeier added that the county will specifically target “high-traffic and high-density areas” for enforcement.
The goal, officials say, is voluntary compliance.
“We will remain flexible, and use a good dose of common sense along the way,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan. “We are hoping for a very light snow year, but nonetheless, our implementation plan is ready.”
Elderly and disabled individuals physically incapable of removing snow from their sidewalks will be exempt from the ordinance. For now, county staff will determine exempt status by contacting the homeowner directly; no exemption list will be maintained.
Yesterday a plurality of readers said the program should simply be dismantled. But that seems unlikely, given the county board’s expressed support for the program on Saturday.
Susan Kalish, spokesperson for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, says the county has gotten a “deluge” of snowblower requests this year and will likely be deciding this week whether to purchase additional machines.
With more requests than snowblowers, Kalish explained how the county decides whose requests will be granted.
“Priority for the snow blowers is based on area to be blown (big area, high-traffic area, or both) and the group (got enough volunteers to make sure it’s done, have a track record of getting the job done),” she said.
For more information about the snowblower program, residents can contact Tom Mitchler at tmitchler[at]arlingtonva.us or call 703-228-6522.
The Arlington County Board approved a controversial snow removal ordinance on Saturday by a vote of 4-1. Board chairman Jay Fisette cast the lone ‘no’ vote, calling the hefty penalties in the ordinance “overkill.”
The board also passed a fare hike for the county’s ART and STAR buses. The base ART bus fare will increase from $1.25 to $1.50.
Additionally, the board approved a zoning change that will allow Army-Navy Country Club to build a sprawling new four-story clubhouse with views of Washington, D.C. As part of the zoning change, the club will allow an emergency access road to be constructed through its 254 acre grounds. The road, which will connect the Arlington Views neighborhood near Columbia Pike with Army Navy Drive near Pentagon City, will also be open to bicyclists and pedestrians.
County officials were there to listen. And thanks to the myriad of concerns expressed by residents, there was plenty of listening to do.
At an informal public forum on Arlington’s proposed snow removal ordinance, a group of about 30 residents took turns dissecting every possible facet of the two-page statute.
The proposed ordinance legally mandates that home and business owners clear snow from their sidewalks and prohibits the dumping snow on streets and other public property. A violation would theoretically be greeted with a $100 fine and, if necessary, a bill for the cost of hiring a private contractor to clear the stretch of sidewalk in question.
But what may seem straightforward actually generated a slew of questions:
- Why shouldn’t the county face the same stringent snow removal standards for public property?
- Wouldn’t this place an unfair burden on certain residents in areas where only one side of the street has a sidewalk?
- Would you be violating the ordinance by clearing snow off a car that’s parked in the street?
- What if residents are traveling? Since they’ll know your house is unoccupied, is it safe to hire someone to clear the sidewalk while you’re gone?
- Where do you put the snow if you don’t have a front yard?
- What sort of recourse do you have if a county plow deposits snow onto your freshly-shoveled sidewalk?
Those last two questions were the most controversial — and the most commonly asked.
“Giving the county the authority and ability to fine me for not shoveling my sidewalk is a really bad idea,” one man said. “We worked really hard to shovel our sidewalk all the way around, and then the county came along and plowed it over. They were the worst offenders during this winter.”
The county should figure out where residents can lawfully place the snow before enacting the ordinance, another resident said. “For me, the fundamental issue is: tell me where the snow goes.”
There are several very good options for people who want to get out of their house or apartment and do something tonight:
- The new Siena Park luxury apartment building (2301 Columbia Pike) its celebrating its grand opening with an “Art of Living Well” event from 7:00 to 9:00, featuring food and FREE beer and wine tastings from a number of local restaurants, including: Twisted Vines, Rocklands Barbeque, Caribbean Breeze Restaurant, Extra Virgin, Rock Bottom,Tthe Melting Pot and others. There will also be live music, an appearance by artist J.D. Miller, and — of course — tours of the apartments.
- Put on your best “O” face and go to the Bi-Annual TPS Report Managers Meeting at Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). The “meeting” is actually an Office Space movie festival with trivia, impersonation and costume contests. The festivities start at 7:00 with theme music. The movie starts at 8:30.
- Finally, for the civic-minded, Arlington County will hold an informal public forum on the snow removal ordinance at 7:00 p.m. The forum will take place at 3033 Wilson Blvd, rooms 7E-7F. Staffers will explain the proposed ordinance and answer questions.
As always, see our events calendar for lots more to do this weekend.
In 2004, the city of Hagerstown charged an 86-year-old woman $223 for not clearing her sidewalk after a snowstorm. That same year, the city of Frederick, Md. sent snow removal bills to the state-run Maryland School for the Deaf and to an elderly couple confined to walkers.
The Hagerstown incident caused a “public outcry” that forced the city to ease up on enforcement, the Associated Press reported at the time. A photo of the elderly couple in Frederick, which ran in a local newspaper, is a classic study in bad PR.
Arlington is now considering a snow removal ordinance similar to the statutes in place in Hagerstown and Frederick. The proposed ordinance has garnered headlines like “Arlington Proposes Criminal Charges for Unneighborly Snow Shovelers” and “Arlington Says Clear Your Sidewalks or Pay Up.” Clearly, history risks repeating itself.
County officials, however, say they’ve been trying to learn from our neighbors.
“Staff reviewed numerous jurisdictions that have ordinances or conditions that govern sidewalk snow removal,” says Arlington County transportation planning chief Thomas Bruccoleri.
Among the jurisdictions studied:
- The City of Alexandria requires property owners to clear sidewalks within 24 hours. Alexandria’s ordinance assesses a $50 civil penalty, but only after written notice has been issued.
- Loudoun County requires property owners to clear sidewalks within 6 hours. People with physical or mental disabilities, and people over the age of 65, are exempted. The county provides written notice and has not had to issue fines due to high compliance. Like Arlington’s proposed ordinance, Loudoun can assess a fine of up to $250, which is a class 4 misdemeanor.
- Fairfax County does not have a sidewalk snow removal ordinance.
Arlington is set to hold a public hearing on a permanent snow removal ordinance on Saturday, June 12.
The proposed ordinance would require residential and commercial property owners to clear snow from sidewalks 24-36 hours after snow stops falling. It would make it a misdemeanor to shovel snow onto public property, including streets and bus stops.