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Power outage in Arlington as of 10 a.m. (via Dominion)

Update at 3:05 p.m. — Numerous small, scattered outages have been reported around Arlington. The number of Dominion customers in the dark is now down to just over 800, with the larger earlier outage since largely resolved.

Earlier: Today’s frigid wind storm is just getting underway — complete with a recent bout of snow flurries — but many are already without power in Arlington.

As of 10 a.m., more than 1,500 Dominion customers are in the cold, according to the power company’s website.

The following outages were reported on Dominion’s map.

  • 718 customers, in Penrose and Lyon Park
  • 715 customers, between Ballston and Westover
  • 114 customers, in Glebewood
  • At least two smaller outages in Bellevue Forest and Ashton Heights

The Penrose outage has closed Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services offices at Sequoia Plaza, the county announced this morning.

“Dominion Energy continues to closely monitor the extremely cold, windy weather and its potential to impact our Virginia and North Carolina service territory,” the company said in a statement today. “Our crews are positioned and ready to respond to any damage or power outages that may be caused as a result of the ice storm.”

“If you experience a power outage, please make sure you report it to Dominion Energy immediately,” the company added. “Please stay at least 30 feet away from all downed wires and damaged equipment. If you need to report an emergency or a downed wire, please call us at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357)… We appreciate your patience.”

The county is under both a Wind Advisory and a Wind Chill Advisory today. More outages are possible throughout the day, with 50 mph wind gusts expected.

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The Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (staff photo)

Arlington County is paying the contractor who built the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center an extra $1.2 million to make up for project delays.

Despite this overage, the entire project is expected to come in at least $2 million under its overall budget.

It’s a high note to end on for the controversial project, which nearly a decade ago was put on hold after bids well exceeded the original $79.2 million budget, forcing the county to downsize its original plans.

The Arlington County Board approved the $1.2 million payment to the contractor on Saturday.

A report explaining the payment blames Dominion Energy for the delays. Dominion which was supposed to provide permanent power to the new facility by the fall of 2020, but final electrical power was not complete until July 2021.

“This delay hampered completion of critical elements” of the project, the said. “While the County generously granted additional time to the Contractor, the Contractor incurred additional costs due to the significant extension of the contract completion period and the extended general condition costs for the Contractor’s on-site construction staff.”

If the facility had gotten power on time, the county says, the $70.7 million project would have been completed months earlier and within the $5.3 million contingency budget originally approved.

Instead, the overages cost $1.8 million, wiping out the $602,000 that remained in contingencies, thus requiring the extra appropriation.

The Arlington County Board awarded a $60 million contract to design and build the facility to Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. in November 2017. The contractor and county staff began working with Dominion Energy before construction started to ensure that electrical power could be supplied to the site when needed.

“Permanent electrical power could have been supplied to the site as early as Spring 2019 had work gone according to plan,” the report says. “Dominion received construction permits for electrical work within the right-of-way of Long Bridge Drive in Fall 2020. Work was not begun, and the permit expired. Another permit was issued to Dominion, and this also expired due to inactivity.”

By March 2021, the facility and park had permanent power, but a transformer had to be replaced in July. The facility opened on Aug. 23, 2021 and was closed for emergency electrical repairs in April.

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Nonprofit PathForward in Courthouse (photo courtesy of PathForward)

Dominion Energy is providing grants to two Arlington nonprofits to help increase medical access to the county’s most vulnerable.

The power company announced last night (Oct. 11) that its charitable foundation is providing $7,500 to PathForward for its “Mobile Medical Program” program and $5,000 to Arlington Free Clinic for medications and vaccinations.

These grants are part of the $1.2 million that Dominion is providing to 185 other non-profits in eight states, including $450,000 to 68 organizations in Virginia, through its charitable foundation.

Arlington Free Clinic is located just off Columbia Pike and provides free health care to low-income residents. The grant from Dominion is set to help offset costs for needed prescription medications and vaccinations.

“One of Arlington Free Clinic’s most important services is to provide access to prescription medications and vaccinations our patients need to get healthy and stay healthy,” CEO Nancy White told ARLnow in an email. “Support from Dominion Energy helps ensure that this vital program will continue.”

Courthouse-based PathForward is a nonprofit organization that helps people who are unhoused get the help they need, including finding a home. In July 2021, the organization — which operates the county-funded homeless shelter across from the county courthouse — changed its name from A-SPAN.

The nonprofit’s “Mobile Medical Program” was started about a year ago and its aim is to provide medical and social work services to people who are experiencing homelessness.

“We act as a scout and go out and talk to them. First, we gain their trust and, then, we help with food security, medical needs, and mental health,” PathForward CEO Betsy Frantz told ARLnow.

This often requires two people, a nurse and a social worker, with a backpack full of supplies, like bandages, food, and a blood pressure monitor. The two do a medical check-up and observe behaviors while also offering support and next steps.

“The program doesn’t require a million dollars. It just needs skilled professionals to show up,” Frantz said.

The $7,500 grant from Dominion Energy will go towards providing these services as well as filling the backpacks with supplies. Other organizations and private donors have also given money to the program.

The power company told ARLnow that it was proud to support the two Arlington nonprofits.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people experiencing homelessness and to not know the best way to help. PathForward’s Mobile Medical Program is an innovative strategy to help our unsheltered neighbors by providing basic human needs with compassion and dignity,” Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox wrote.

“We are grateful to Pathforward for developing this program and to Arlington Free Clinic for its continued service to underserved communities,” Fox added. “Dominion Energy is proud to support Pathforward and Arlington Free Clinic and we applaud the positive impact they are bringing to people’s lives.”

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Clarendon and Lyon Park power outage (via Dominion)

Update at 3:20 p.m. — The number of outages is down to just over 600, according to Dominion. Police are in the process of removing cones from intersections with traffic signals that are working again.

Earlier: More than 3,500 homes and businesses are currently without power in Arlington due to a reported transformer fire.

The outage is centered around the Clarendon and Lyon Park neighborhoods. Initial reports suggest that a tree fell on power lines somewhere in the area and sparked the transformer fire that is causing the large outage.

Traffic signals are said to be dark at numerous busy intersections. Police are responding to assist with traffic control.

Another several hundred Dominion customers were initially reported to be in the dark around Courthouse, though power is back on in most of the neighborhood.

One office worker in Courthouse described experiencing 3-4 power surges that “went through the building like a wind blowing… about 2 minutes from start to finish.”

In addition to calls about non-functioning traffic lights, police and fire radio channels have been busy with reports of smoke coming from sidewalk grates — a normal occurrence in commercial areas during outages, caused by diesel generators starting up.

As of 2 p.m., Dominion’s website estimates a timeframe of between 5-8 p.m. for restoration of power.

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Last week we reported on a call to police made after an Amazon delivery van was towed. This week, another commercial vehicle tow led to another police response.

Advanced Towing — the Ballston-based trespass tow company with a reputation for being prolific or predatory, depending on your perspective — is at the center of both.

This time around, police were dispatched to the tow lot on 5th Road N. for a report of an alarming incident: a Dominion power crew supposedly had a vehicle towed during emergency repair work. A short time later, several police units could be seen at the lot, talking with the crew.

Arlington’s towing ordinance specifies that public safety vehicles and vehicles responding to an emergency are not to be towed, even if parked on private property.

But is seems that the reality did not quite match the initial report. First, it was a utility contractor’s pickup truck that was towed, not a Dominion-owned vehicle, as seen in the photos above. On top of that, police said the incident was soon cleared by responding officers.

“At approximately 12:35 p.m., police were dispatched to the 4000 block of 5th Road N. for the report of a dispute,” said Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, it was determined the dispute was related to a vehicle tow from private property. The incident was determined to be non-criminal and the scene was cleared by responding officers.”

Advanced Towing asserted in a brief statement that the vehicle that was towed was parked on private property for non-emergency work across the street.

“This was a construction crew, and not an emergency crew, with several vehicles parked illegally on private property, while doing work across the street,” the company told ARLnow. “They were not working on the property they parked at. Contractors cannot violate someone’s private property rights, especially to do work and a completely different property.”

The exact details could not be independently confirmed and it’s unclear from which property the vehicle was towed, but the circumstances are not unlike last week’s Amazon tow. Initially, police were told that the van had been stolen, but they later determined that it had been towed from private property; Advanced said the van was parked in a fire lane.

And these were not the only commercial tows to catch the attention of locals over the past week or so. On Twitter yesterday, a user noted a locksmith’s van being towed near the Pentagon City mall.

Police are frequently called to the Advanced lot, but not just for commercial vehicle tows.

Advanced’s poor reputation mostly comes from its towing of private vehicles. The speed with which such tows occur have, along with other factors, at times enraged vehicle owners to the point that police are called for reports of heated disputes at the lot.

In 2020, a rideshare driver become so irate that he struck Advanced owner John O’Neill with his car, injuring O’Neill and also reportedly striking another vehicle before running into a utility pole. That driver pleaded guilty to reckless driving and a felony hit and run last August.

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Update at 6:05 p.m. — The number of outages in Arlington is now down to just 67, according to Dominion.

Earlier: More than 2,000 Dominion customers are still without power after two strong storms knocked down trees and power lines Sunday.

As of 9:45 a.m. the utility company reported 2,084 customers in the dark, down from 8,295 outages immediately following the second of yesterday’s storms.

The outages are scattered across the county but mostly in south Arlington. Among the largest of the remaining outages are in the Aurora Highlands and Columbia Forest neighborhoods.

Dominion’s power outage map currently lists the estimated restoration time as between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. tonight.

The utility company has been struggling to restore power due to widespread damage from the storms. Currently Dominion is reporting  8,992 outages across Northern Virginia, including 2,832 in Fairfax County and 3,873 in Alexandria.

The downed trees and power lines are affecting bus service in Columbia Forest.

“Due to downed power lines, the ART Route 75 will not be servicing stops on S. Frederick Street until further notice,” Arlington Transit said in an alert earlier this morning. “Passengers can board on George Mason Drive.”

https://twitter.com/PeggyDomEnergy/status/1528746576927236096

The outages are also affecting library service in Aurora Highlands.

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A project scheduled to begin this summer will tunnel under the Four Mile Run near the Route 1 bridge to move overhead power lines underground.

As part of the project, Dominion Energy will rebuild its Glebe Substation next year, modernizing the facility that was built in the 1970s and is reaching the end of its service life. The substation serves parts of Arlington and Alexandria.

“Everything will look a lot cleaner, a lot of the equipment will be a lot smaller,” said Ann Gordon Mickel, Dominion Energy’s communication and community lead for the project.

A virtual community meeting will be held tonight (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the status of the project and what to expect during and after construction.

When work begins, a 250-foot by 250-foot area will be fenced off in the Potomac Yard shopping center parking lot in Alexandria to allow for a 40- to 50-foot deep pit for tunneling.

In Arlington, a pit will be constructed at the substation and there may be temporary intermittent closures on S. Eads Street, as well as on nearby sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Electric service will not be affected.

The underground line will run between the substation and the Potomac Yard Transition Station, which will be decommissioned at the end of the project. The rebuilt Glebe Substation will incorporate new technology, requiring less maintenance and making it more reliable, the power company said.

“Any time you address aging infrastructure and replace it with new technology the reliability always enhances,” said Greg Mathey, a manager of electric transmission communications for Dominion Energy. “The transmission system feeds the distribution system, so the more reliable and hardened we can make the transmission system, the better the distribution system can perform.”

The construction to convert to underground lines is scheduled to continue through 2024. The whole project should be completed by late 2025.

A chart outlining the timeline of the Glebe Electric Transmission Project (via Dominion Energy)

The entire project is expected to cost about $122.8 million. The State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in Virginia, approved the project in 2019. It was originally scheduled to be up and running by this month, but due to the nature of the construction, the timeline was pushed back.

Using a trenchless microtunneling method will increase costs by about $16 million — but it shortens the construction timeline, according to project documents.

This type of tunneling will also reduce construction-related impacts to the Potomac Yard shopping center, as it won’t require as much space for pipes above ground.

The overhead lines that can be seen over Four Mile Run will be removed at the end of the project.

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Dominion on scene of power pole fire in 2020 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

An early morning power outage Tuesday left more than 2,000 Dominion customers in the dark. The culprit: balloons.

The incident prompted Dominion Energy to remind residents about the danger posed by those metallic balloons one might buy in a grocery or party supply store.

“In the overnight hours mylar balloons came in contact with our power lines causing a short circuit or power surge which put 2,085 customers in the dark,” Dominion spokeswoman Peggy Fox tells ARLnow. “The balloons damaged a circuit which had to be replaced.  Fortunately, there was no fire and our crews were able to gradually switch customers to other circuits.’

“Power was restored to all of those customers by 5 a.m. — in under three hours from when the outage began,” she added.

Letting balloons fly up into the sky may seem harmless — and in the case of balloons held by young children, it’s sometimes hard to avoid — but aside from the fact that the balloons eventually come down and end up as litter, mylar balloons in particular pose an acute danger on the way up.

“Mylar balloons have a metallic coating that conducts electricity,” Fox explains. “When they touch power lines they can cause large-scale outages, melting of electrical wires and even fires. It’s happened across the country.”

“We would ask people to not release any balloons outside and to dispose of them properly,” she said.

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The lonely utility pole at Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street in Sept. (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

The lonely utility pole protruding into a Columbia Pike intersection has not come down yet, the county confirms, despite assurances it was going to by the end of last year.

In September, ARLnow learned that an errant utility pole sitting a few feet from the sidewalk at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street was scheduled to be removed. But that has yet to happen, due to at least one utility company not completing work to bury wires as part of the Columbia Pike multimodal project.

“Dominion Energy crews have completed removal of their overhead lines, with [the] exception of one property. Comcast’s contractor has completed removal of their overhead wires. Verizon is dealing with material shipment delays, which have deferred the process of scheduling their undergrounding work,” reads the county’s Jan. 6 project update. “When all three companies have removed their overhead wires, the utility poles along the roadway will be removed.”

The update on the website was made shortly after ARLnow reached out for more information based on a reader tip that the pole was still there.

There’s no timeline as to when the pole will be removed, a county spokesperson tells us.

The work may eventually result in the temporary closure of Columbia Pike lanes between the Arlington/Fairfax County line and the Four Mile Run Bridge during construction hours, they note.

In the fall of 2020, a traffic signal was installed at the intersection of S. Frederick Street and Columbia Pike near Arlington Mill. It was in response to a years-long request from residents and advocates to improve the intersection’s safety, which had seen a number of crashes and accidents over the years, including some involving pedestrians.

As part of that construction, the driveway to Arbor Heights — an affordable housing complex with an entrance right off Columbia Pike — was redone to align with S. Frederick Street. Previously, a cement island with a strip of sidewalk held the pole but that island was removed, leaving the pole all alone.

It’s surrounded by bollards and, though the county says it hasn’t received any complaints about it blocking or being dangerous to traffic, ARLnow has received several notes about it from concerned motorists.

A new underground duct bank was built and the utility companies are using it to bury the lines.

All of the ongoing work is part of the Columbia Pike multimodal street improvements project, which extends from the Arlington/Fairfax County line to S. Joyce Street in Pentagon City.

The goal is to “make Columbia Pike a safer, more accessible route for all users” as well as to transform “this main thoroughfare into a complete street that balances all modes of travel and supports high-quality, high-frequency transit service.”

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Looking down Lynn Street in Rosslyn toward Georgetown, in the snow (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10 a.m.) A frigid night is on tap and the refreezing of melting snow could make roads and sidewalks extra slippery.

The National Weather Service on Monday issued a Special Weather Statement about the ice concerns overnight:

…Icy Patches Likely Overnight Into Tuesday Morning… Falling temperatures and water from melted snow will result in patchy ice on area roads overnight into early Tuesday. This will be especially problematic on untreated roadways. Motorists should exercise extra caution overnight into early Tuesday, and assume that any surfaces which look wet or slushy may in fact be icy.

Adding to the driving danger in Arlington: many neighborhood roads have yet to be touched by a snow plow. As of Monday night, the county remained in “Phase 2” of its snow removal plan, during which crews focus on primary and secondary roads only.

Arlington snow plow map as of 10:15 p.m. The roads in red have not yet been plowed. (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services says that crews will “work throughout the night to clear roadways,” but the county said Monday night what some had suspected: that Covid has reduced snow plow staffing.

“The County’s snow removal is currently impacted by COVID-19 related staffing shortages,” the county said. “Roads are being cleared as quickly and safely as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

Monday’s winter storm was one for the record books.

The 6.9 inches of accumulation recorded at Reagan National Airport is a new official D.C. record for Jan. 3 and the first major snowfall event in about three years. In Arlington, storm spotters reported between 6.5 and 9.2 inches of snow, with higher amounts generally to the south.

The storm’s impact will be felt Tuesday and perhaps beyond.

As previously reported, Arlington Public Schools will be closed while trash collection has been cancelled for both Monday and Tuesday. Additionally, Arlington County government offices, recreation centers, vaccination clinics, and — as of Tuesday morning — Covid testing booths will be closed on Tuesday.

The federal government will be opening on a three hour delay on Tuesday, the Office of Personnel Management said tonight.

While unnecessary travel is being discouraged, particularly overnight, limited bus service is now available.

After being suspended for most of the day, some Metrobus service started a gradual return as of 6 p.m. ART bus service in Arlington is currently expected to be restored at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

It’s going to be a cold night, meanwhile, for more than a thousand households around Arlington.

As of 10:30 p.m., 1,240 homes and businesses were without power in Arlington, according to Dominion. It could be days before the outages, scattered across the county, are fully resolved.

“Please prepare for the possibility of being without power for multiple days,” power company spokeswoman Peggy Fox said tonight. “This is a multi-day restoration effort.”

Dominion reported more than 90,000 customers without power across Northern Virginia — and even more statewide — Monday night.

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Power outages in Arlington just before 12:15 p.m., amid heavy snow (via Dominion)

(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Roads around Arlington are impassible, schools and the federal government are closed, and to make matters worse thousands of homes and businesses are without power throughout Arlington.

Amid the heavy, wet snow — some 6+ inches have fallen so far, with a couple of hours of additional snowfall expected — there have been numerous reports of branches snapping, trees falling and power lines down around the county. In some areas, power lines are sparking or on fire, with snow-laden branches leaning against them.

Among other reports, first responders are on scene of a significant power line fire on Robert Walker Place, near Taylor Elementary, according to scanner traffic. They have asked Dominion crews to expedite their response to the scene.

The fire department has also been dispatched to a report of a tree that fell into a house.  Most of the reports of tree damage are in North Arlington neighborhoods.

As of 2:45 p.m., Dominion reported 4,767 outages in Arlington — a number that has been steadily increasing. Of those, about 2,200 are part of a large outage centered around Marymount University’s main campus. Other small outages are spread across the county.

That’s still well below the more than 48,000 homes and businesses that are in the dark in neighboring Fairfax County as of 2:45 p.m., however. In all, Dominion is reporting more than 145,000 outages across Northern Virginia.

Some trees are also reported down across roads, including on N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge and S. Arlington Ridge Road near Gunston Middle School. Additionally, the Bluemont Junction Trail is blocked by a fallen tree.

Local authorities, including Arlington police, continue to urge people to stay home and off the roads as the flakes keep falling.

As of noon, Arlington snow crews were in “Phase 2” of their response, focused on primary and secondary routes instead of neighborhood streets.

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