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Morning Notes

Power Payment Scam — “Arlington County is warning the public about a phone scam of unsolicited calls claiming to be representatives of Dominion Energy. Dominion Energy will not call you to pressure you to pay. If you have issues, contact the customer service line (1-866-366-4357) immediately.” [Twitter]

Youngkin Voters Cite Schools — From WAMU’s Rachel Kurzius: “I cannot stress enough how much the issue of education has motivated Youngkin supporters. It comes up in every convo. Charmaine and Jack Yoest of Arlington say that ‘what’s going on in our schools today’ cuts across party lines and that helps explain Youngkin’s success tonight… One thing I keep hearing is that parents didn’t like what they overheard on Zoom classes.” [Twitter]

Leadership Center Picks Leader — “Lisa Fikes, who has served as head of Volunteer Arlington for five years and in recent months has served as interim CEO of the Leadership Center for Excellence, has been tapped for that post in a permanent capacity.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Today there will be areas of frost before 10 a.m. Otherwise it will be sunny, with a high near 52. Sunrise at 7:37 a.m. and sunset at 6:05 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.

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(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) Flooding is not the only imminent threat from today’s wild weather. The saturated ground and gusty winds have brought down several trees and large limbs around Arlington already, causing power outages.

As of 12:30 p.m. more than 2,250 homes and businesses were without power from Virginia Square to Bellevue Forest, with a large chunk of residential North Arlington in between, according to Dominion’s outage map. (The number dipped to 1,925 as of 1:15 p.m.)

Power flickered briefly in Ballston around noon, before coming back on. The outage knocked out traffic signals on Washington Blvd and Langston Blvd, among others. The Lyon Village Shopping Center, including The Italian Store, is also reportedly affected.

One likely cause is power lines that are down across Lorcom Lane near N. Edgewood Street, in the area of the Maywood and Woodmont neighborhoods. A falling tree took down the lines, which Dominion crews are now working to repair. Lorcom Lane is closed in the area.

The current estimated restoration time for the outage is listed as between 2-8 p.m, according to Dominion.

Meanwhile, more trees are likely to fall.

This morning the National Weather Service issued a statement cautioning about falling trees. NWS has received more than a dozen reports of trees falling around the region, including in Fairfax County where more than 5,000 Dominion customers are currently in the dark.

From NWS:

1122 AM EDT FRI OCT 29 2021

…GUSTY WINDS AND WET GROUND LEADING TO MINOR TREE DAMAGE…

GUSTY EASTERLY WINDS OF UP TO AROUND 40 MPH COMBINED WITH WET GROUND FROM RECENT RAINFALL IS RESULTING IN SPORADIC TREE AND POWER LINE DAMAGE. REMAIN ALERT IF TRAVELING THROUGH WOODED AREAS, AND AVOID THEM IF POSSIBLE.

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(Updated 9:20 a.m.) A Dominion Energy substation under renovation near Crystal City is set to electrify the neighborhood with an artistic façade.

The energy provider is expanding and remodeling its substation at the intersection of S. Hayes Street and S. Fern Street to meet the increasing demand for electricity as the population in the National Landing area — and Amazon’s nearby HQ2 — grows. It obtained the extra land needed for the expansion a year ago through an agreement with the County Board.

As part of the renovation, Dominion will be adding public art to one building face — “inVisible” by California-based artist Elena Manferdini — and building a public plaza.

Manferdini’s energetic design features vibrant ceramic tiles interacting with grayscale panels that extend toward the sky. But it’s a big departure from the “cloud concept” Dominion chose last year in response to community feedback.

Dominion Energy’s original “cloud concept” proposed for its substation near Crystal City (via Dominion Energy)

Her livelier proposal proved polarizing. While well-received by Dominion — and approved by the Arlington County Public Art Committee in March — reactions during last month’s Arlington Ridge Civic Association meeting were negatively charged for two reasons, says one attendee.

“1) Although the good intention to keep the building from being bland was well understood by the attendees, the artwork seemed too ‘busy’ for them, and 2) the artwork is being done by a non-local artist,” Tina Ghiladi said in an email. “At best, some reactions were neutral, because the substation is not in Arlington Ridge nor within our line of sight.”

Dominion Energy spokeswoman Peggy Fox says Manferdini, an award-winning artist with two decades of experience, was chosen on the strength of her proposal.

“We were hopeful to find a local artist for this project,” Fox said. “However, Elena proved to be the superior candidate by listening to both the desires of the community and representing the function of a substation and its ‘invisible’ importance in the community. It was clear she did her homework and drew inspiration from both angles. Elena (and her design ‘inVisible’) was chosen because she was the best candidate for this job.”

Manferdini describes her project as a representation of the unseen force of electricity and an invitation to the audience to question their relationship to it.

“Every day, we are surrounded by one of the most important innovations of all time, electricity,” she said in a March meeting. “Its energy powers every area of our modern lives. And yet we can’t see it. Like gravity, electricity is an invisible force we only recognize when it acts upon other objects.”

“inVisible” by Atelier Manferdini, the planned artwork for Dominion Energy’s substation near Crystal City (via Dominion Energy)

Ghiladi says some negative reaction softened when Dominion explained her vision and that she was selected “because of her experience in, and passion for, the subject.” Overall, neighbors like the other changes, she says.

“The members were positive/supportive about all other aspects of the project, namely improving our power network, as well as the removal of the lattice roof,” she said.

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) A man suffered injuries that are reported to be life-threatening after an on-the-job accident in the Old Glebe neighborhood.

Police and medics were dispatched to a large, under-construction home on the 4600 block of N. Dittmar Road around 1 p.m. Initial reports suggest a worker was carrying a ladder when it made contact with power lines, electrocuting him.

The man is being rushed to a local hospital by Arlington County Fire Department medics.

Police are now investigating the accident. A Dominion power crew is also being requested to the scene.

Power outages in N. Arlington at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 15, 2021 (map via Dominion)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Around 3,400 homes and businesses are in the dark in Arlington as a result of a widespread power outage.

Portions of Courthouse, Clarendon and Virginia Square are without power, while a Dominion outage map previously showed a big swath of the residential neighborhoods to the north — extending into McLean — also affected. At the outage’s peak, nearly 5,500 homes and businesses were without power.

Traffic signals are dark at some of the busy intersections along the Orange Line corridor, according to scanner traffic.

On its website Dominion lists an early power restoration estimate of 6-9 p.m.

Reports of the outage came around the same time as the Arlington County Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a blown transformer. The fire department has also been responding to reports of smoke from buildings in the area, potentially linked to generators starting up.

At least one apartment building, Virginia Square Tower at 3444 Fairfax Drive, suffered a reported electrical fire, according to an email shared with ARLnow.

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About 1,500 homes and businesses are without power in Arlington after heavy rain and some gusty winds from Hurricane Ida’s remnants.

Most of the outages are in neighborhoods along and north of Route 29, including Cherrydale, Maywood and Donaldson Run. Dominion reports about 1,350 in the area.

The outages may be related to a transformer fire along Lorcom Lane this afternoon, which appeared to be caused by a fallen tree or large tree branch.

Dominion crews are on the scene making repairs. The company estimates that power will be back on between 8 p.m.-1 a.m., according to its website.

Another 150 Dominion customers are in the dark due to an outage centered around 23rd Street S., in the Crystal City and Aurora Highlands neighborhoods.

The power company says power should be restored to that area by 3 a.m.

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Parts of Arlington County have been experiencing power problems this morning.

Currently, more than 1,200 power customers are reported to be in the dark in the Virginia Square, Cherrydale and Ballston neighborhoods, according to an outage map from Dominion Energy.

Some complication have been reported from that outage, including tripped fire alarms, smoke from generators starting up, non-functioning traffic signals and a potential power surge in a building.

Several traffic light issues were reported earlier this morning, in Clarendon and Ballston. It’s unclear if those problems are related to the current power outage.

https://twitter.com/WTOPtraffic/status/1374341756666384392

Update at 11:05 a.m. — The outage is down to about 350 Dominion customers, per the power company’s website.

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A crash in the East Falls Church neighborhood last night closed a portion of busy Lee Highway for an extended period of time.

The crash happened around 7:45 p.m. Thursday, a couple of blocks east of the Lee Highway and Washington Blvd intersection. A driver in a sedan appears to have run off the road, smashed through a brick wall and damaged a utility pole.

“Upon arrival, officers located a single vehicle crash into a utility pole,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. The driver was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Lee Highway was closed between Washington Boulevard and N. Sycamore Street and Dominion Energy responded to complete repairs.”

The crash knocked out power to a portion of the surrounding area. An exact cause of the crash was not given.

Utility work dragged on into the night, but all lanes were reopened by this morning, according to Arlington Alert.

Photo via Danny Shaw

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A widespread power outage is currently affecting parts of Arlington.

More than 3,500 Dominion customers were without power in the county as of 9:30 p.m. Affected neighborhoods include Ballston, Bluemont, Buckingham, Ashton Heights and Lyon Park, according to the power company’s outage map.

Residents near those neighborhoods might have seen their power flicker around 9 p.m.

The outage happened after a driver in a Toyota Prius slammed into a utility pole in the Buckingham area. On social media, the Arlington County Fire Department said it is “unknown” when power will be restored.

Update at 10:15 p.m. — Power has been restored to most customers, but about 500 in the Buckingham area, near the crash, remain in the dark.

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(Updated at 5 p.m. on 11/10/20) Dominion Energy and Arlington County are looking to swap two pieces of land near Crystal City.

On Saturday, the County Board is slated to consider a series of real estate and land use actions, including a land exchange agreement between Dominion and the county. Dominion offered to give the county a piece of property at the corner of 18th Street and S. Ives Street in exchange for a piece of county-owned land on the corner of S. Fern and S. Hayes streets.

The swap would allow Dominion to expand its substation — located roughly two blocks from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2 — to accommodate larger, newer equipment. Construction on the expansion is anticipated to start late in the first quarter of 2021.

The County is considering turning the Dominion property, the site of a previous substation, into a park.

In addition to updating the substation, Dominion is also trying to meet increasing demand for energy as the Pentagon City and Crystal City areas develop, said Michael Halewski, a real estate specialist from the Department of Environmental Services, during a meeting on Wednesday with Arlington’s Planning Commission.

“Dominion is on a tight time frame for the delivery of the increased electrical capacity to the community,” Halewski said.

The area needs more “redundancy and reliability” in the electrical services it provides, said Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox in an email on Tuesday.

To get the extra physical space needed for the new equipment, Dominion looked to neighboring land. The county-owned property — an unused, grass-covered sliver along S. Hayes Street — did not have as many constraints, including underground public utilities, as other plots.

The original discussion about this exchange occurred in the summer of 2019, and in July 2020, Dominion submitted a rezoning application to the County Board.

In August, Dominion notified the neighboring civic associations of its plans, and invited feedback through a survey. It also purchased social media ads and held two virtual meetings.

“It was one of the more successful community engagements Dominion has had in response to one of its projects,” said Matthew Weinstein, counsel to Dominion Energy, during the Planning Commission meeting.

In response to feedback on the aesthetics of the substation, Dominion updated its permit to include a commitment to installing public art on-site, redesigning the plaza to improve the pedestrian and leisure experience and widening the sidewalk from four feet to six feet, said Dominion spokesperson Ann Gordon Mickel in a project update on Oct. 28.

Neighboring civic associations told county staff they had no issues with the substation rezoning proposals, but the Aurora Highlands Civic Association did express hesitancy with the exchange agreement.

“We’ve heard some concerns from the community about the environmental condition of the land,” said Halewski, the county staffer.

Environmental reports indicate that some areas of the old sub-station property would need to be remediated if dirt was disturbed and excavated. The soil could be used on-site or disposed of in a regulated landfill, he said.

“The cost of those different scenarios range from $0 if it’s a passive open space to approximately $55,000,” Halewski said. “This would be a county cost.”

Photos above (1-2) via Google Maps, (3-4) via Arlington County

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Update at 6:40 p.m. — Power appears to have been restored to all Arlington and most Fairfax County customers, according to Dominion’s website, after an issue with a transmission line.

Earlier: More than 1,600 Dominion customers are without power in Arlington due to a widespread power outage.

The outage is affecting parts of Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church, according to Dominion. A cause was not given on the company’s website, but the restoration time was estimated as between 5-10 p.m.

The outage is affecting North Arlington neighborhoods, including areas around Jamestown Elementary, Yorktown High School and Bishop O’Connell High School.

Wide swaths of McLean, Pimmit Hills and West Falls Church are also affected in Fairfax County, where more than 26,000 Dominion customers are reported to be in the dark.

Arlington County police are responding to several intersections where the traffic signals are inoperable, for traffic control.

The outage comes amid wet and breezy conditions, as the remnants of Hurricane Zeta exit the area. A Dominion spokeswoman said via social media that the outages stem from an issue with a transmission line.

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