Arlington, VA

As some Arlingtonians are still struggling to put their lives together after flash flooding in July, the county is continuing to work to repair flood-damaged public property.

Early estimates put damage to the county at $3.5 million, but Hannah Winant, a spokesperson for Arlington County Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, said estimates for the damage to county property has swelled to $5.8 million. Those costs include debris cleanup, emergency protective measures, and repairs to County facilities like parks and community centers.

Winant said bridges in Lubber Run and Glencarlyn parks suffered the worst damage from the storms. A storage building at Bon Air park was also seriously damaged, as were other pedestrian bridges, playgrounds and more across Arlington. Additionally, the County is assessing the erosion to local waterways that could require long-term fixes.

Arlington has submitted its preliminary assessment to the state, but after the state receives the assessment it must be validated.

“This process can go on for a few weeks, as crews triage the damage and more information becomes available,” Winant said. “This is where we are now.”

Once the state completes its assessment, that information is submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), after which the agency portions out funding and technical support for public properties that have been damaged.

“Reimbursement is also being sought through the County’s insurance,” Winant said. “During this time, the County cleans up from the disaster, removing the debris and cleaning right-of-way, and tries to get back to normal operations for the community such as opening parks and other affected facilities. The recovery process can be a long one and we appreciate the community’s patience and support as we navigate the process of requesting aid.”

Going forward, Winant predicted recovery costs will continue to increase as weather changes become more severe.

“Weather is consistently increasing in its severity and frequency,” Winant said “Nationally, both insured and uninsured losses continue to grow — so costs from disasters are rising as disaster frequency also increases.”

For homeowners, businesses, and renters who were affected by the flooding, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans. The filing deadline for physical property damage is Oct. 7, and the deadline for economic injury applications from business owners is May 7, 2020.

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced today (Thursday) that Virginia will help those impacted by July’s historic floods with low-interest loans to cover the cost of repairs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will dole out federal loans of up to $200,000 for damage to people’s homes, or up to $2 million for damage to their businesses. Homeowners and renters are also eligible for loans of up to $40,000 covering the cost of the many personal possessions lost in the unusually strong storm.

Residents and small business owners in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County are eligible to apply.

Residents will have until October 7, 2019 to request a loan to cover physical property damage, and businesses will have until May 7, 2020 to request a loan for economic damage.

“Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes,” the governor’s office and Virginia Department of Emergency Management wrote a joint press release. “Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.”

The terms SBA sets for the loans will depend on the individual, officials say, but can last 30 years with interest rates around 4% for businesses, 2.75% for nonprofits, and 1.938% for homeowners.

“The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of Virginia with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist businesses of all sizes, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans,” said Acting Administrator Christopher Pilkerton.

“We appreciate the Small Business Administration approving our request for financial assistance to help Virginians get back on their feet and move forward as quickly as possible,” Northam said in a statement. “We will continue working in close coordination with the affected communities to support their recovery.”

In the meantime, SBA is setting up a space in Arlington for residents to come with questions about the loan process. The space, dubbed the “Disaster Loan Outreach Center,” will be located in the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) and will open for about a week, starting next Tuesday.

The schedule, per the governor’s office:

  • Tuesday, August 13 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday, August 14 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Thursday, August 15 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
  • Friday, August 16 — 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Saturday, August 17 — 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
  • Sunday, August 18 — CLOSED
  • Monday, August 19 — 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM

In addition to online applications at DisasterLoan.sba.gov, paper applications can be mailed to the SBA’s Processing and Disbursement Center, located at 14925 Kingsport Road in Fort Worth, TX.

Residents can contact the SBA with questions by emailing [email protected]gov, or calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (or dialing 1-800-877-8339 a deaf-accessible line.)

Over 1,000 residents filed damage reports with the county and Arlington declared a state of emergency in the hopes of applying for state and federal aid. As repair costs mounted and the county said it wasn’t liable for sewer damageseveral businesses, neighborhoods, and homeowners said they were forced to set up online fundraising campaigns.

The July flash floods dealt an estimated $4.1 million worth of damage to county-owned property and damaged dozens of buildings on the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. These properties are not eligible for SBA loans.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is assessing damage to two dozen different buildings on the base caused by last month’s disastrous flooding, per a spokesperson.

“The base is still assessing the damage sustained during the flooding and is working on a report to be forwarded to our higher headquarters at the Army’s Installation Management Command,” said JBMHH Spokeswoman Leah Rubalcaba.

“There were a total of 26 facilities across our three bases of Fort Myer, Henderson Hall and Fort McNair that sustained water damage,” Rubalcaba told ARLnow in an email yesterday (Thursday.) “Military organizations do not have insurance, but are allotted an annual budget for operations and maintenance. Then, based on the final assessment and funding availability, additional funds will be forwarded to JBM-HH for repairs.”

She said the base has had to move events, like a recent job fair, into the basketball court because the community center is currently unusable.

“Somehow water got under the flooring and the floor buckled so nobody can walk on it,” she said.

Additionally, one bus from Marine Corps Base Quantico was parked in the lower lot by Henderson Hall — part of the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps — when rain flooded the area, damaging the bus along with four cars and a forklift.

The Henderson Hall parking lot, dubbed the “lower flood lot,” is prone to flooding because of the landscape’s natural drainage. But in her 15 years of working on the base, Rubalcaba said she’s never seen flooding as high as during the storm on July 8.

“We know we’re going to get a little bit of rain there. But usually like an inch,” she said. “That’s why we don’t build anything there. People know that’s what happens and they stay away from it.” 

The unusually strong storm last month dumped 3-4 inches of water in an hour on Arlington. Roads, businesses and homes across the county were inundated with water and sewage with one stream swallowed whole by a broken pipe.

Countywide, the storm wrought an estimated $4 million in damages to publicly-owned property alone.

“We’re hoping to get some extra funding just to get everything repaired,” said Rubalcaba.

Courtesy photo

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Weeks after flooding ravaged homes and businesses in Westover, nearly a dozen neighbors came together to help one family get at least one piece of their life back together.

After Wendy Naus put out a message on the neighborhood’s group-text chain asking if anyone was available to help move her shed, which was washed across the yard by floodwaters, around ten people showed up and spent two hours gradually shifting the large, blue shed back into its former position.

Some of those who came to help still have not moved back into their own flood-damaged homes, said Naus.

“On the one hand I’m in awe of these people, many of whom still aren’t living in their homes,” she said. “On the other hand, I’m not surprised,” given the close-knit nature of the community.

“I’m more shocked that it worked,” Naus added. “The look on everyone’s face when we moved it… we were shocked that it worked.”

Naus jacked the building up onto cinder blocks, and the neighbors laid planks down across the yard like tracks to slide it back into position. A time-lapse video she shared (below) shows the painstaking work in progress.

Naus said this is just the latest example of how the neighborhood has rallied and helped each other in the days and weeks after floods swept through many local homes. When Naus needed some help dismantling the damaged tiles in her basement, five locals showed up to help clear away the rubble.

“The same group of neighbors on this one small block have all been helping each other out over the last few weeks,” Naus said. “I’ve been hashtagging ‘#BestBlockInAmerica’ for weeks.”

But for the residents of Westover, normalcy is still out of reach.

“It’s been slow,” Naus said. “The air conditioning has been replaced and our missing door and windows have been boarded up. It’s safe, but not it’s just the waiting game for longer-term things. We’re still waiting to hear back from the County on mitigation plans for the future since everyone’s reluctant to work on their basements. It’s still livable, but there’s a long road ahead.”

In the meantime, Naus said it was nice to see everyone smiling and happy at a small celebration after the shed was moved back.

“We all just needed a win,” Naus said. “The shed symbolizes a tangible thing that’s sort of a positive in the aftermath of this flood. It was a morale boost for us.”

Photos 1 & 2 courtesy Wendy Naus

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(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) Arlington officials estimate that Monday’s flash flooding caused $3.5 million in damage to county infrastructure, particularly bridges in local parks.

As of last night, the an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman said the department was aware of “at least six pedestrian bridges adjacent to the Four Mile Run stream and one storage building at Bon Air Park” which have been washed away.

Restrooms, playgrounds and picnic tables along local streams also sustained damage and “a few community centers experienced minor to moderate flooding,” though the community centers all remained open with “no major operational impacts,” we’re told.

The parks department damage assessment was updated Tuesday late afternoon to include the following:

  • Six pedestrian bridges adjacent to the Four Mile Run stream — one at Bon Air Park, two at Lubber Run Park, two at Glencarlyn Park and one at Gulf Branch Nature Center — were destroyed. Additionally, a bridge near the Glencarlyn Dog Park and one at Holmberg Park were damaged
  • The following picnic shelters are closed through Friday (July 12): Bluemont Park, Bon Air Park, Glencarlyn Park
  • Playgrounds at numerous parks lost safety surface in the flooding; as a result, Glencarlyn Park playground remains closed until further notice
  • A storage building at Bon Air Park was destroyed
  • James Hunter Dog Park [near Shirlington] experienced flooding and DPR is evaluating the fountain
  • The County’s Trails saw debris and dirt; Four Mile Run Trail suffered some asphalt damage

“The Department of Parks and Recreation is working to make our areas safe and operational as soon as possible after Arlington’s parks saw considerable damage on Monday,” said spokeswoman Martha Holland. “DPR is still working on gathering damage assessments from the storm, and some facilities may be closed as cleaning and repairs begin.”

Photos and video also shows damage along Lubber Run, near the amphitheater. A torrent of muddy water can be seen rushing through the park; pedestrian bridges were washed away, though the amphitheater itself was spared.

Foot bridges along even tiny babbling brooks were no match for raging floodwaters. One such wooden bridge connecting Chesterbrook Road and N. Vermont Street in the Old Glebe neighborhood was washed off its foundation and blocked off by caution tape this morning.

A couple of Arlington libraries were also impacted.

“The auditorium at Central Library sustained water damage and all programs are canceled this week,” Arlington Public Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “Central Library opened up on schedule today.”

“Cherrydale Branch Library closed early yesterday due to flooding and power outages,” Sundqvist added. “We expect to open on time today.”

Arlington County has closed two roads that suffered damage to the road surface as a result of the flooding: until repairs can be made, 18th Street N. is closed between N. Lexington and McKinley streets, while 20th Street N. is closed at George Mason Drive.

“There’s no other significant damage to facilities at this time, but assessments are ongoing,” said county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith.

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Update at 11:05 a.m. — Most businesses along the north side of Washington Blvd in Westover are still closed following Monday’s flooding. Ayers hardware is open in a limited capacity. 

Earlier: This morning’s storms and flooding has left stores along the north side of Washington Blvd in Westover Village without power — and some facing extensive damages.

Businesses along the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, from Westover Market (5863 Washington Blvd) to The Italian Store (5837 Washington Blvd), were closed as of 2 p.m. All of the properties were without power and several were flooded.

Westover Market and the Ayers Variety & Hardware at the west end of the block were at two of the lowest points of the slope. At Westover Market and Beer Garden, workers moved tables and soaked beer crates out of the store and into the rain, occasionally with the assistance of people passing by.

“I came down to get a keg and stuff was just floating away,” said Joseph Turner, a manager at Westover Market. “We’re trying to clean and open as soon as possible, but there needs to be fire department and health inspections.”

Turner watched as people carried out soaked boxes from the store and set them into stacks of rubbish.

“I’m just speechless,” Turner said.

Video posted earlier today shows the market flooded and fast-moving water rushing through the outdoor beer garden, damaging the fence and sweeping away picnic tables.

At Ayers Variety & Hardware, water in the storefront was ankle deep, but the real damage took place below — the basement, where the business stores merchandise, was completely flooded. Kristy Peterkin, a manager at the store and daughter of owner Ronald Kaplan, said that staff had been running generators to pump water out of the basement — but then the power cut out.

“We’ve seen nothing like this since 1977,” Peterkin said. “This is catastrophic.”

Peterkin said employees haven’t been able to access the basement to examine the impact but estimated that there would be at least $100,000 in damages.

The Forest Inn, Toby’s Ice Cream, and Rite Aid were all closed and empty. The post office west and slightly uphill from Westover Market was still accepting drop-offs as of 2 p.m., but said they would soon be closing.

At Pete’s Barber Shop, the staff cleared away waterlogged mats but were otherwise sitting around, waiting for power to come back.

The Italian Store on the end has no basement and fared a little better than its neighbors. Owner Rob Tramonte said they were working with contractors to get a generator running, to allow the business to open again soon or at least keep the food from spoiling. Tramonte noted that his Lyon Village location remains open, despite flooding at the nearby intersection of Lee Highway and N. Kirkwood Road.

Jeremy Slayton, a communications specialist for Dominion Energy, said power was estimated to be back on by tonight, though it’s unclear whether power will be able to be restored before the floodwaters could be pumped out. Store owners said they were told it could be a week before utilities are back online.

Ashley Hopko contributed to this story

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Water damage from a March winter storm has prompted the replacement of the gym floor at the Arlington Mill Community Center.

Staff first noticed water damage to the wooden gym floor in late spring. They investigated, and found that water leaked into the building after the snow on March 14, according to a spokeswoman for the Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.

“Given the heavy gym use for the Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Camps, the decision was made to replace and repair beginning September 2017,” the spokeswoman said. “The work is expected to be completed by October 31 with the gym reopening November 1. The damage is being paid for through the facilities maintenance fund, but we are in the process of reporting it to the County’s insurer.”

A number of programs at the gym will be impacted while the work is completed. Per a county flyer:

  • “Pickleball players are encouraged to use Walter Reed Community Center (2909 S. 16th Street, Arl. VA 22204) while the gym floor is being replaced.”
  • “Family Nights @ The Mill will be relocated to the Carver Community Center (1415 S. Queen St., Arl. VA 22204) and Teen Nights will return to Arlington Mill in November.”
  • “Pint-Sized Indoor Playtime, basketball, futsal and volleyball participants are encouraged to check-out our county-wide Community Center Drop-in Activities Schedule.”
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Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced today he will send 120 soldiers from the Virginia National Guard to the U.S. Virgin Islands to help with relief after Hurricane Maria.

The 120 soldiers are assigned to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and will deploy in the next week to mission command headquarters. Up to 400 more will follow to conduct humanitarian assistance, clear roads and give out supplies to citizens.

It is the 10th time Virginia has coordinated an aid mission at the state level, not including efforts by religious and nonprofit organizations based in the Commonwealth.

The Category 5 storm destroyed homes and boats docked on the three islands. Four people were reported dead across the U.S. Virgin Islands; the power grid and other infrastructure was devastated and may take months to restore; and residents are in serious need of aid, which was slow to arrive after the hurricane passed.

“Virginia is ready to help communities facing the long road to recovery from the devastation wrought on their cities and towns by the recent hurricanes,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “Commonwealth officials, the Virginia National Guard, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and other agencies remain in close contact with our counterparts in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We will continue to offer Virginia’s assistance for short and long-term recovery.”

More from a Governor’s Office press release after the jump:

Read More

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After her adopted home of the U.S. Virgin Islands was battered by Hurricane Irma, a woman with connections to Arlington County is calling on others to donate to help the relief effort.

Victoria Lemmon grew up in Ashburn and her father and sister currently live and work in Arlington. She moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands two years ago when she graduated college and “started a life there, met amazing people who have done the same thing I did, people who started families, and families who relocated there to live the dream.”

She lives on St. John, the smallest of the three islands, which together with St. Thomas received the worst of the damage from the Category 5 storm.

More than half the homes on St. John have been destroyed, she said, along with 90 percent of the boats docked on the island, including houseboats. Four people were reported dead across the U.S. Virgin Islands; the power grid and other infrastructure was devastated and may take months to restore; and residents are in serious need of aid, which was slow to arrive after the hurricane passed.

“St. John is nicknamed ‘Love City’ due to the never-ending kindness, and passion we have for our island family and home,” Lemmon said. “Though things are looking up with more help being sent to the island, we need more miracles to help us rebuild.”

Lemmon urged people on the U.S. mainland to donate online, either to the likes of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, or to reputable online fundraising campaigns.

Basketball great and Virgin Islands native Tim Duncan has raised more than $2 million through his “21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund,” while country music superstar Kenny Chesney, whose home on St. John was destroyed by the storm, is collecting donations via a new foundation he set up. There are also efforts to collect donated supplies to send to the islands.

Lemmon said that with coverage of Irma focused on the U.S. mainland as it made its way towards Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands were “overlooked.”

We need way more media attention to bring in donations for the people who are there and running out of food and water, we need donations for chainsaws and tools to help clear the debris. We are begging for help and attention to these U.S. citizens that have been overlooked in the week since the storm, due to media describing the first US landfall of Irma to be Florida.

The media overlooking the Virgin Islands and placing their main and general concern with Florida has left St. John even more devastated because we went days with no attention or help, which started to provoke crime. Peoples whose homes were destroyed lost even more by looters, and guns were stolen from our customs building.

More scenes from the USVI, via Twitter:

Photos courtesy Victoria Lemmon

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Update at 11:20 p.m. — The National Weather Service confirms that an EF-0 tornado tracked through Arlington and into the District on Thursday.

Earlier: The storms that whipped through Arlington and the D.C. region yesterday brought power outages and damage, and more trees toppled today, according to the Arlington County Fire Department.

But now the Capital Weather Gang believes the storms caused something else: a rare tornado in Arlington.

As CWG reported, the National Weather Service officially confirmed tornadoes in Herndon and in Southeast D.C. on Thursday. But the CWG team lists several other areas where they believe small tornadoes may have touched down, including in South Arlington near the Pentagon.

Radar indicated rotation there around 1:40 p.m., as noted on Twitter by weather enthusiast Ian Livingston.

Photographic evidence of damage near the Army Navy Country Club is consistent with tornadic activity, according to CWG. That’s also close to where one person was hurt when part of the Macy’s facade and roof at the Pentagon City mall was damaged and fell onto a car yesterday.

The National Weather Service reportedly is assessing damage near the Tidal Basin to determine if a tornado occurred there and along the H Street Corridor; the same storm caused the Arlington circulation. The Capital Weather Gang indicates the possible Arlington tornado may have been a separate occurrence from the one at the Tidal Basin, or that one tornado may have passed over the entire area in question.

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(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) A severe thunderstorm that ripped through Arlington just after lunchtime has left some debris and damage in its wake.

In Pentagon City, part of the facade and roof of the Macy’s at the Pentagon City mall was damaged and a portion of it fell onto a car. One minor injury has been reported. As of 2:45 p.m., workers were on the roof inspecting the damage.

According to scanner reports, a tree fell on a car near the intersection of Route 50 and Park Drive. The two occupants of the vehicle were shaken up but not injured.

A tree fell into a home on the 1400 block of N. Wakefield Street, a few blocks from Washington-Lee High School, according to a fire department dispatch. The tree caused damage to the front of the house, but did not hit a car parked next door.

A number of other instances of trees and utility lines falling have been reported around the county, including at the intersections of S. Wayne Street and 6th Street S., S. Adams Street and 8th Street S., and 31st Street S. and S. Randolph Street.

As of 2:45 p.m., just over 550 Dominion customers were without power, according to the company’s outage map.

Via Twitter, residents say the storm brought hail in addition to very strong winds.

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