Arlington House, the historic former mansion home of Robert E. Lee at Arlington National Cemetery, suffered significant water damage Thursday night, ARLnow has learned.
The Greek revival style mansion reopened to the public this past June after major renovations, funded by philanthropist David Rubenstein. It also underwent renovations after being damaged in the 2011 Mid-Atlantic earthquake.
Now, a portion of the mansion will need to be restored after a reported sprinkler malfunction.
“Last night, United States Park Police was notified by Arlington National Cemetery security that the fire suppression system at Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial had discharged,” National Park Service spokesman Aaron LaRocca said, after an inquiry from ARLnow. “Thanks to the quick action of the Fort Myer Fire Department, US Park Police and National Park Service staff, water damage was limited to the hallway in the north wing, the adjacent staircase, and the basement below this area. The museum collection was not damaged.”
Our understanding is that inadequate heat in this section of the building caused a malfunction in a sprinkler head. Our primary focus now is to reduce humidity, restore the HVAC to a fully operational status, and recharge the suppression system.
We are all greatly appreciative of the quick response of our partners at the Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer and park staff who worked throughout the night to minimize damage. Their commitment to Arlington House and to protect the resources entrusted to the National Park Service is unquestioned.
The plantation house is closed until at least Tuesday and access to the north wing will be limited during clean up and restoration. The north and south enslaved people quarters, museum, grounds, and bookstore remain open.
Arlington House was replaced as the official logo of Arlington County last year.
The logo change process came about after the racial reckoning of the summer of 2020 and calls from the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, which called Confederate general’s former home a “racist plantation symbol” that “divides, rather than unites us.”
Hat tip to Alan Henney
Fast forward to today and two of the bridges that suffered the worst damage in the July 2019 storm — at Glencarlyn and Lubber Run parks — are set be replaced over the next year, and should be ready by the summer and fall of 2022, respectively.
The work is a long time in coming for cyclists and the Bicycle Advisory Committee, which has been asking for regular updates since the flooding. Cycling advocate and former BAC President Gillian Burgess said while roads were quickly repaired for travel, cyclists missing the Glencarlyn bridge have spent the last two years taking long detours or wading through shallow portions of Four Mile Run to reach the other side.
“It’s still not clear to me why all these steps take so much longer for a pedestrian bridge than they would for a street,” Burgess said. She added that of all the bridges destroyed, the Glencarlyn bridge near 301 S. Harrison Street “is by far the most important bridge for connectivity.”
That’s because the bridge provides the most direct access to the Long Branch Nature Center from the W&OD Trail, she said. It also provides cyclists a crossing to get to the Lubber Run trails to the north.
A parks department spokeswoman said the county prioritizes projects based on factors like use and need.
“The County repairs and replaces pedestrian bridges within its park system using a systematic approach, strategically repairing or replacing the most heavily used or most heavily deteriorated bridges until the point is reached that all bridges are in good repair,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said.
According to Burgess, the department has cited finding funding and navigating the permitting and review processes as sources of delays between 2019 and 2021.
Kalish said progress is being made on two bridges, funding for which was included in the county’s 2022-2024 Capital Improvement Plan.
“The County is currently designing a new bridge to replace the one damaged near the dog park at Glencarlyn Park,” she said. The new bridge, in the same location as the last bridge, should be completed by summer 2022, she said.
For now, conditions are sub-optimal for trail users, Burgess said. The current detour adds about 20-30 minutes to those on foot. For cyclists, the problem with the detour is not necessarily the added time, but the fact that it’s along a trail that is badly paved with steep sections.
Most cyclists opt to descend into the stream and wade across at one of two fords to the north and south of the bridge. To the north, cyclists ascend near picnic shelters, where the trail is sometimes blocked by park cars. But the biggest problem for crossing via the north or south ford is the terrain.
“It’s a steep hill down and a steep hill up,” Burgess said. As for the trail itself, she said, “I don’t bike with kids on it. When I’m by myself, I worry about the bike not making it because of the blind curves and lots of hills.”
Cyclist and nearby resident Amanda Lowenberger said that for her and her family, “this is nothing more than a daily inconvenience, but one we can afford.”
She said she doesn’t mind occasionally wading through the stream but would like the bridge re-built soon.
“I do volunteer stream water monitoring for the county, and I have a 9-year-old who likes to splash around in the water, so I end up in the stream on a regular basis,” she said. “But still, it would be great to have that bridge as an option again.”
During Tuesday’s County Board meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz introduced “Flood Resilient Arlington,” to be considered during the spring budget planning.
Demetra McBride, who heads the Department of Environmental Services (DES) Sustainability and Environmental Management bureau, said Flood Resilient Arlington will include educational forums, site visits, and a potential flood-resilience incentive program to help the county prepare for increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change.
The program “builds upon” the 2014 Stormwater Master Plan, which outlined improvements to Arlington’s stormwater management systems, streams, and watersheds over the next 20 years, according to DES Chief Operating Officer Mike Moon.
“We hear about climate change, and it always seems to be somewhere else,” said Vice Board Chair Libby Garvey. “People tend to think and accuse the government of not doing something right, they don’t buy the climate change reason, so we have a level of education we [owe].”
Funding for Flood Resilient Arlington will not be established for “eight to nine months,” said Moon.
The next steps include approximately 80 visits from Board members beginning this month to sites deemed a “high risk” for flooding, or homes that received more than four feet of water during the July 8 storm. During the Tuesday presentation, McBride listed several neighborhoods — such as Waverley Hills, Westover, and Rock Spring — as high risk for future flooding based on past data. She highlighted steps homeowners can take to stay dry.
“I realize this is emotional for people, your home is a big investment,” McBride said. “They have families and children and they’re concerned for their safety.”
Two public forums to discuss the program are planned: one on Thursday, October 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street), and another on Saturday, October 26 from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive.)
During the meetings, the public can expect to:
- Hear from experts on flood-proof design
- Learn about flood insurance options and coverage
- Learn about how to flood-proof your house
McBride stressed homeowners need to educate themselves on flood insurance policies, also noting the county needs to step in with educational resources.
Several residents told ARLnow in the flood’s aftermath they had received conflicting information about their eligibility for flood insurance and were left fearing they would have to bear tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs.
During the disaster, dozens of residents fled their homes, a few beloved Arlington businesses closed for repairs, six pedestrian bridges were washed away, and thousands of dollars were raised on platforms such as GoFundMe. The county stated days later it would not cover any sewage overflow damage caused by the flood, telling ARLnow it would violate state law.
Since then, residents have applied for over $2.1 million in U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, Schwartz shared, and Arlington businesses have applied for more than $100,000 in loans. Applicants can still file for a loan by Monday, October 7.
“During a majority of the 1,100 damage reports [this summer], people had insurance and thought they were protected, and then they realized there were exemptions and exclusions,” said McBride. “That’s a gap we would help to close.”
McBride said Arlington will have to slowly overhaul its public infrastructure through several long-term projects — like upgrading the stormwater pipes, developing large tanks for water storage, and property acquisition — to help address the flood risk.
“These [will require] long-term disruption of neighborhoods,” she said. “I wish we could avoid that, but we’re simply not going to be able to and that’s going to be a partnership we need to have with the public.”
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.
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 disastercustomerservice@sba.
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 damage, several 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.
(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.
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
(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.
— Brandon J⭕️nes (@btj) July 8, 2019
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.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) July 8, 2019
Due to surface damage from today's flooding in Westover, 18th Street North is closed for repairs between North Lexington Street and North McKinley Road. #vatraffic https://t.co/AR4VZCOl2E pic.twitter.com/K2wlcs7NCl
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) July 8, 2019
“There’s no other significant damage to facilities at this time, but assessments are ongoing,” said county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith.
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.
UPDATE: 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. https://t.co/sutjwvqmNV pic.twitter.com/PhXIgFTBRs
— Arlington Now (@ARLnowDOTcom) July 9, 2019
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.
— Paulo Mendes (@Paulojmendes1) July 8, 2019
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
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.”
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: