In the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria, a dozen Arlington County Police officers volunteered to head down to Puerto Rico and assist law enforcement on the island.
The officers first arrived in November and were greeted by grateful residents. They came back with unforgettable stories to tell of their service to the community.
Among those featured in the video above is Det. Rosa Ortiz, who grew up on Puerto Rico before moving to the United States in 1984.
More on ACPD’s efforts during the Puerto Rico recovery effort, via a police press release:
In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria, one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record, roared through Puerto Rico. It completely destroyed the island’s power grid and caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities.
Some 1,560 miles away, the Arlington County Police Department answered the calls for help.
Twelve Arlington County Police officers volunteered to deploy to Puerto Rico, roughly a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean. ACPD’s officers deployed in three staggered teams between November 10 – December 18, 2017, and served the Puerto Rico community for 16 days each.
The officers directed traffic at critical intersections impacted by power outages, relieving this burden from the local officers, who could then focus on other law enforcement responsibilities. They made themselves a part of the community, offering support and comfort in desperate times. They selflessly served a community in need, and represented ACPD’s values of Duty, Honor and Commitment. But mostly, they wanted to help.
“I am proud that our officers are willing to dedicate their time to provide the citizens of Puerto Rico with an added sense of security in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said Police Chief M. Jay Farr. “Our officers take an oath to serve and protect and their willingness to deploy shows their commitment and dedication, not just to the Arlington County community, but to citizens everywhere.”
The request for assistance came through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), the national emergency management mutual aid system. Each of ACPD’s three teams provided traffic direction at the intersection of Route 66 and Route 3 in the town of Rio Grande, roughly 24 miles outside the capital city of San Jaun. Throughout their deployment, they served the Puerto Rico community, and were joined by other Virginia Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) teams from Prince William and Hampton, as well as teams from, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Florida, Houston and Montana.
Puerto Rico Pets Coming to Arlington for Adoption — Dogs and cats from Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, were flown from the island to the D.C. area over the weekend by Arlington-based Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. The pets arrived via van convoy to a hero’s welcome in Shirlington and are now up for adoption. [Washington Post]
Arlington Among ‘Best Places to Live’ — City ranker Livability.com is out with its 2018 “Top 100 Best Places To Live” list and Arlington has placed No. 35, one spot below Pittsburgh and one above Asheville, N.C. Arlington previously ranked No. 3 on the list. [Livability]
Lower Property Value Rise Will Cause Budget Challenges — “The year-over-year increase in real-estate assessments throughout Arlington came in lower than government officials had expected, which may cause problems for County Board members trying to avoid either tax increases or budget cuts.” [InsideNova]
More on Key Bridge Marriott Sale — The new owners of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn may benefit from the previous owner’s application to the FAA to construct buildings up to 470 feet tall on the property, which overlooks Georgetown and the Potomac River. The FAA application is “an indication it was setting the stage for the site’s redevelopment.” [Washington Business Journal]
Betsy Franz Leaves Leadership Center — Leadership Center for Excellence (formerly Leadership Arlington) founding President and CEO Betsy Frantz is leaving the organization in April to become President of the Virginia Hospital Center Health System Foundation. Liz Nohra, the COO of LCE, will take over as Acting President and CEO. [Leadership Center for Excellence]
Eviction Notice for TechShop in Crystal City — “A Jan. 18 eviction notice from the Arlington County sheriff’s department now hangs in the storefront of the maker space chain’s Crystal City location. The notice comes more than a month after San Jose, California-based TechShop announced it would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and then, a few weeks later, disclosed in early December it was reaching a deal to be acquired.” [Washington Business Journal]
County to Connect Building Owners and Investors for Sustainability — “All systems are ‘go’ for Arlington’s new ‘C-PACE’ program, a first-in-Virginia public-private partnership to provide affordable, long-term financing to improve energy or water efficiency of commercial buildings.” [Arlington County]
Reminder: Use Salt in Moderation — Prior to this morning’s rain, Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tweeted a reminder to residents to avoid excess application of salt during freezing weather. “Use only as much as needed and no more to melt ice because this will wash into our watershed,” DES said. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Arlington Ready for Possible Snow — The chances of “meaningful accumulation” have since gone down, but Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services crews started applying brine to county roads Monday night in anticipation a “potential snow/ice this Wednesday evening/Thursday.” [Twitter, Washington Post]
VDOT Pleased With I-66 HOT Lane Data — NBC 4’s Adam Tuss tweets: “Doesn’t look like @VaDOTNOVA plans to change anything about the I-66 toll lanes. They say their data shows commutes were faster and more reliable.” [Twitter]
Dems Want Satellite-Voting Centers — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee could again be at loggerheads with the county’s elections office over whether to provide satellite locations for absentee voting in non-presidential-election years.” [InsideNova]
ARLnow T-Shirt Now Available — Need a gift for the ARLnow.com fan in your life? Show your Arlington pride with this long-sleeved t-shirt from the county’s No. 1 local news source. [Amazon]
ACPD Officers Helping in Puerto Rico — The Arlington County Police Department is among the departments nationwide sending officers to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to provide emergency assistance. The third ACPD team to rotate in is working on the island through Dec. 18. Officers who’ve gone say many challenges remain but there are hopeful signs as well. [Arlington Connection]
Westover Townhouse Battle Continues — Arlington County is weighing both a historic district and a “Housing Conservation District” for Westover, to protect aging but affordable garden apartments from being redeveloped into $800,000 townhomes. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
ACPD Helping Out in Puerto Rico — Arlington County Police officers are on the ground in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, directing traffic at critical intersections in areas without power. The officers were sent there as part of a national disaster mutual aid agreement. Local residents, meanwhile, have been expressing their appreciation for ACPD’s presence. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
Blind Triplets Utilizing New Tech — The blind triplets who recently made history by all becoming Eagle Scouts are also among the early users of new Aira glasses. The technology, launched in April, uses camera-equipped glasses to allow a remote agent to narrate what they see in real time, thus providing additional autonomy for the wearer. [Washington Post]
School Board Members Ditch Ties — At Tuesday’s Arlington School Board meeting, the two male members of the Board “committed sartorial faux pas,” in the words of the Sun Gazette, by not wearing ties. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton
Twelve officers from the Arlington County Police Department will be deployed to Puerto Rico to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria.
The officers will deploy in three staggered teams from tomorrow (Friday, November 10) until December 18. The teams will spend 16 days each in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico requested assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is the national emergency management mutual aid system that facilitates state-to-state disaster assistance.
“I am proud that our officers are willing to dedicate their time to provide the citizens of Puerto Rico with an added sense of security in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Police Chief Jay Farr said in a statement. “Our officers take an oath to serve and protect and their willingness to deploy shows their commitment and dedication, not just to the Arlington County community, but to citizens everywhere.”
Dogs displaced from Houston by Hurricane Harvey arrived yesterday (Monday) at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington to find new homes.
National animal rescue nonprofit Best Friends Society brought 15 adoptable dogs to AWLA (2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive) on its “Bobs From Skechers Roving Rescue Bus,” sponsored by the shoe brand. More dogs are also being taken to Atlanta and New York for adoption.
“Best Friends Animal Society has been on the ground taking care of pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey since August and opened the Pet Reunion Pavilion at the NRG Arena to reunite them with their owners,” a press release on the project reads. “Two months later, while some pets have been reunited or fostered/adopted to new homes, many are still in our care.”
Beyer issued a statement yesterday (Thursday) after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, which provides increased funding to disaster recovery programs.
In the statement, Beyer said:
I voted for this aid package to send support to Americans hit by natural disasters, but this bill represents the bare minimum that Congress can do to help, particularly with respect to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Following Donald Trump’s threat to abandon Puerto Rico in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, Congress should guarantee its full support to Americans suffering in the wake of natural disasters. Federal emergency management must not leave Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands until it has restored electricity and access to clean, potable water for everyone.
The aid package has $18.7 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. That includes $4.9 billion to help fund recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, as well as $676.6 million for fighting wildfires and $16 billion in debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program to pay claims from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
The recent spate of major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has raised the possibility of flood-damaged vehicles making their way up to the local used car market, Virginia officials warn.
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are thought to have been damaged by hurricane-related flooding. That has prompted warnings from Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles and attorney general.
Although Virginia state law requires owners to report water damage when selling their vehicle, not everyone does. The AG and DMV have released guidelines of what to watch for when purchasing a used vehicle.
Their full statement is below.
RICHMOND (October 3, 2017) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are urging customers in the market for a new or used car to be on the lookout for vehicles with water damage in the wake of massive flooding caused by a recent onslaught of hurricanes that has damaged or destroyed countless vehicles.
“All Virginians purchasing a used car directly from another individual should have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic, but that advice is even more pertinent in the wake of massive flooding when the risk of purchasing a water-damaged car increases,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Virginians need to be on the lookout for signs of water damage when purchasing a vehicle, and should always trust their instincts – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Nearly one-out-of-three car sales occurs directly between individuals,” DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said. “The dangers of water-damaged cars can be hidden. Aside from mold and rust, electrical systems could erode and fail over time. Computer sensors could be damaged and safety protections like air bags could fail in a crash.”
State law requires water damage to be reported on a vehicle’s title; however, dishonest sellers can find ways to circumvent these requirements, putting buyers at risk. If a vehicle is branded as non-repairable, the vehicle cannot be titled in Virginia, but a non-repairable car could be titled in another state. If a Virginian purchases that car and tries to title it in Virginia, the vehicle’s history would show it as non-repairable and the customer couldn’t obtain a title.
Virginia Code § 46.2-624 requires insurance companies to report to DMV when they have paid a claim of $3,500 or more on a vehicle due to water damage. Insurers are required to notify DMV of such water damage, even if the owner intends to continue driving the vehicle.
One tool consumers can use to check a vehicle’s history is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). By centralizing national title records, NMVTIS can help customers take extra precautions to identify flood-damaged, stolen or otherwise unsafe vehicles prior to titling. For more information, visit vehiclehistory.gov.
While there is no sure method to test for vehicle flood damage, here are several inspection tips that may help detect significant water damage:
- Examine the interior and the engine compartment for evidence of water and grit from suspected submersion.
- Check for recently shampooed carpet, and check under the floorboard carpet for water residue or stain marks from evaporated water not related to air-conditioning pan leaks.
- Look for rusting on the inside of the car and under interior carpeting, and visually inspect all interior upholstery and door panels for evidence of fading.
- Check under the dashboard for dried mud and residue, and note any evidence of mold or a musty odor in the upholstery, carpet or trunk.
- Check for rust on screws in the console or other areas where water would not reach unless submerged.
- Check for mud or grit in alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, and around the small recesses of starter motors, power-steering pumps and relays.
- Complete a detailed inspection of the electrical wiring system, looking for rusted components, water residue or suspicious corrosion.
- Inspect the undercarriage or other components for evidence of rust and flaking metal that would not normally be associated with late-model vehicles.
- Ask a lot of questions and be thorough. Trust your instincts: if you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away.
While these inspection suggestions will not detect flood damage in every case, they do provide some information to protect consumers from purchasing a vehicle damaged by floodwaters. If you are purchasing a used vehicle, always consider having it inspected by a mechanic.
Photo (top) via U.S. Coast Guard
Kaine joined 36 mostly Democratic senators in signing a letter to President Trump outlining steps to boost the U.S. government’s disaster relief efforts on the stricken Caribbean islands, which in many areas lack power, running water and mobile phone service.
More from a press release from Kaine’s office:
In the letter, the Senators wrote, “We write to express deep concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria recently knocked out the entire island’s electric grid leaving at least 3.4 million Americans with no power, decimated countless structures, and claimed the lives of at least 16 individuals. Hospitals have no running water or basic supplies, and 95% of cellphone structures are still inactive. As a result, we still do not have an accurate assessment of the destruction.”
“In the words of Governor Ricardo Rosselló, the people of Puerto Rico have been ‘essentially devastated.’ The United States Virgin Islands has also suffered catastrophic damage. While they slowly begin their recovery, more help is needed.”
“At a time when there is not a second to lose and the health and well-being of millions of Americans in the U.S. territories depend on swift action, we have identified several areas where strong and decisive leadership is needed,” the letter continues.
The letter calls for eight specific actions to be undertaken by the Trump administration:
- Calls on President Trump to issue a full Disaster Declaration for the entire island of Puerto Rico, which has yet to happen.
- Calls on President Trump to appoint a Special Assistant for Rebuilding, to coordinate the multi-faceted federal efforts for Puerto Rico across all departments and agencies.
- Calls on President Trump to request more funding to assist Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
- Calls on President Trump to utilize all federal resources to restore power, including sending Department of Energy experts; 500 utility employees; 100 fuel trucks; and 200 generators.
- Calls on President Trump to send more Department of Defense assets: construction battalions to repair power and transportation infrastructure, command and control aircraft for air traffic control; helicopters for search and rescue; and 1,500 service members to provide disaster and humanitarian assistance.
- Calls on President Trump to work with Congress to waive the local cost share requirement for FEMA public assistance disaster funding for all categories of FEMA public assistance.
- Calls on President Trump to send assets and expertise from across the federal government to restore communications, including from Department of Commerce, FCC, Coast Guard, and DOD.
- Calls on President Trump to ensure that FEMA, Coast Guard, and DOD work together effectively to restore all ports to working condition.
The letter was also signed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senators Nelson (D-FL), Markey (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Gillibrand (D-NY), Schatz (D-HI), Carper (D-DE), Hassan (D-NH), Bennet (D-CO), Durbin (D-IL.), Hirono (D-HI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Shaheen (D-NH), Booker (D-NJ), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Heinrich (D-NM), Menendez (D-NJ), Feinstein (D-CA), Murphy (D-CT), Blumenthal (D-CT), Coons (D-DE), Brown (D-OH), Klobuchar (D-MN), Merkley (D-OR), Peters (D-MI), Wyden (D-OR), Casey (D-PA), King (I-ME), Murray (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Duckworth (D-IL), Stabenow (D-MI), Franken (D-MN), Harris (D-CA), and Leahy (D-VT).
An Arlington County site for people to donate items to hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico closed in just two days after overwhelming support.
Volunteers throughout the region are gathering supplies for United for Puerto Rico, a charity that provides aid to those on the island affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The hurricanes caused a loss of power throughout Puerto Rico, as well as extensive damage and flooding. Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello said it could take months for power to be restored in some areas.
But after filling eight trucks with supplies in just two days, Arlington’s collection point, Grace Community Church (1031 N. Vermont Street) in Ballston, is no longer taking donations. The effort’s organizer, Mariana Vicens, announced the news in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“Yesterday we packed two trucks and today we packed SIX!” Vicens wrote. “It was an incredible day full of support, love, encouragement, solidarity, and pure bliss! My heart is filled with love and I am so so so thankful for each and every one of you… from the people setting up and cleaning up at the end, the children distributing water and food, the packers, movers and greeters, the runners, the truckers, the people that cooked, the assembly line… you name it!!!”
(Vicens did not respond to requests for further comment.)
Photos from Sunday’s donation show legions of volunteers packing boxes to send to Puerto Rico, as well as non-perishable food and bottled water. Those wishing to donate have also been able to do so online through an Amazon wish-list. Other locations in the area are still accepting donations, which are then sent to the island with the help of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.
Meanwhile, Dogma Bakery (2722 S. Arlington Mill Drive) in Shirlington is accepting pet supplies and cash to donate to Puerto Rico, including food, collars, leashes, dog beds and crates.
And in Falls Church on Saturday, the group Circulo de Puerto Rico will be collecting personal care items, non-perishable food and monetary donations during an “#SOSDC4PR” event at The Locker Room Bar & Grill (502 W. Broad Street).
“Bring your donations and stay over to cheer each incoming contribution. Bring you musical instruments and noisemakers to celebrate when donations come in!” said the event’s registration page. “The Locker Room will donate 15% of the food and drink sales during the event to the hurricane victims. Please share this information with as many people as you can.”
Photos via Facebook.
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:
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.”
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:
— National Guard (@USNationalGuard) September 14, 2017
— Fairfax Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) September 13, 2017
— Ariah Parker (@Ariah1209) September 7, 2017
— dina pierce (@dfpierce64) September 8, 2017
Photos courtesy Victoria Lemmon
Arlington County drivers will have been feeling the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma at the pump, with gas prices spiking by up to 30 cents a gallon or more locally.
Harvey hit oil refineries throughout Texas, with about one-quarter of oil refining capacity on the Gulf Coast being temporarily shut down, according to AAA. And in Arlington and elsewhere in the U.S., prices have spiked as the refineries get back up and running and damage to their systems and pipelines is assessed.
As of Wednesday, prices at the Shell and Speedway stations near Clarendon were $2.69 a gallon for unleaded gas, up from the former price of around $2.30 a gallon.
Despite a spike of around $0.30 cents since the hurricanes, Virginia remains one of the least expensive states to buy gas, at just over $2.50 a gallon on average, according to GasBuddy.com.
“As in any national or local state of emergency, AAA expects gas prices to be held in check up and down the gasoline supply chain, including prices set by refiners, distributors and dealers unless there is a clearly justifiable reason for an increase,” Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokeswoman, said.
AAA is also warning anyone looking to buy a car to be careful of buying a flood-damaged used car. When major storms trigger flooding, thousands of totaled cars are shipped out of the affected area and can end up on the used car market elsewhere in the country. As many as a million vehicles may have been submerged by Harvey, AAA said last week.
Sometimes, buyers can be unaware a car has been repaired after being damaged by floodwater. Cars are meticulously dried out, scoured and scrubbed, then the title is “washed,” where it is moved from state to state until it is branded as repairable. They are then sold on by what AAA described as “unscrupulous sellers and fly-by-night operators.”
In a statement, John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, said:
“Use your five senses to detect telltale signs a vehicle has been flooded. Then use your sixth sense. Look for a waterline under the hood, undercarriage and bumpers; for mud and debris inside the cabin and trunk; for signs of rust, and for fogging inside the headlights and taillights. Use your sense of smell to detect the scent of disinfectants or cleansing agents used to cloak musty smells or mold or mildew. Touch the carpet or floor mats for residual traces of wetness or for signs that the carpets, seats and interiors were recently shampooed.
“Listen to the engine to check if it runs smoothly, or runs rough, or makes abnormal noises as it runs. Also listen to the sound system, to check if the electronics are working properly, because some mechanical and electronic components don’t survive flooding. Curiously, the term ‘lemon,’ a slang first used to describe a ‘worthless thing’ and then ‘a defective car,’ stems from a metaphor for ‘something that leaves a foul or bad taste in your mouth.’ That could happen to you if you buy a flood-damaged vehicle.
“Then rely upon your intuition, instincts, and ‘mother wit.’ Flooded cars are not always totaled and 50 percent are eventually resold. But most of all, use your common sense, and always purchase a vehicle history report or obtain a free VIN report for any vehicle suspected of having a watery past.”
It’s been an anxious couple of weeks for one Arlington resident who had three family members in the path of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Pat Shapiro, who lives in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood, has one son, Josh, in Houston; another son, Aaron, living in Miami; and her 89-year-old mother is a resident of Naples, Fla. All three were impacted to some degree.
“It’s like we’re a hurricane magnet,” said Shapiro, a 10-year library assistant at an Arlington public library.
Harvey slammed Texas and Louisiana in the United States, leaving more than 300,000 people without power, killing more than 60 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.
The still-active although weakened Irma hammered Florida, and has caused flooding as far north as Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Ga. More than 2.6 million homes were without power at one stage in Florida.
Shapiro’s 65th birthday celebrations on August 25 meant Josh was in Arlington when Hurricane Harvey started to batter Houston, and forced him to stay put for a week. Unfortunately, Josh had just closed on a house in Houston the week before. When he returned, it was ruined by flood damage.
Thankfully, Shapiro said he had not moved in any of his furniture or other personal belongings, but the house itself needed to be gutted, and he cannot move in for between nine months and a year while it is repaired.
Josh needed to get to work when he returned to his home in Houston and rip out all the units and floorboards and also drill holes in the walls to let out moisture. And after his real estate agent, who lives nearby, posted on Facebook that he needed help, a group of volunteers intervened.
“He said all of a sudden, at 9:30 a.m., all these trucks and cars pull up and a group of about 30 people walked in his house and said, ‘We’re here to help,'” Shapiro said. “They worked until 9:30 p.m., they ripped out all the floors, they helped him get the carpet out, they helped him put holes in the walls because it had to start drying. He was flabbergasted.”
Shapiro’s other son, Aaron, escaped the worst of the storm. His condo building in the Brickell neighborhood of Miami managed to keep its power on, after management said they would be turning off the elevators and air conditioning and locking the doors to prepare for Hurricane Irma.
After evacuating his building, Aaron stayed with a friend in the nearby city of Coral Gables, where they lost power and saw significant wind damage to trees. The pair then were preparing to go out and do rescue work once the storm had subsided.
Across the state in Naples, Shapiro’s 89-year-old mother was put under mandatory evacuation orders from her home, just three blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. Her house, too, escaped the worst of the storm, although she had to move locations twice. She first went to Tallahassee, then went further north into North Carolina to stay with Shapiro’s sister after Irma’s path shifted.
Shapiro said that other friends of hers in the Naples area who stayed put had to take emergency shelter due to the high winds.
“They said it was very scary,” Shapiro said. “They said the winds were horrible, and they ended up spending the night in a closet they were so scared, because the wind was so bad.”
The experience left Shapiro worried for her family’s safety, but grateful that nothing worse happened to anyone.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “[It’s] been a one-two-three whammy. First the Houston thing, which I was terribly worried about, then this hurricane [Irma]. But all in all, my family came through in such good shape compared to so many others.”
Virginia’s State Corporation Commission is warning of investment scams as Texas and Louisiana begin to recover from Hurricane Harvey.
The SCC warned of Virginians receiving unsolicited emails, social media messages, pitches or telephone calls promoting investment pools or bonds to help storm victims, or to make investments in water-removal or purification technologies, electricity-generating devices and distressed real estate remediation programs.
“Disasters bring out the best in some people, but they bring out the worst in others,” Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising, said in a statement. “Fraudsters often follow the headlines to peddle their schemes. Be leery of unsolicited investment opportunities that seek to capitalize on Hurricane Harvey’s devastation.”
The SCC advised people to do the following:
- Delete unsolicited emails or social media messages and hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting hurricane-related investments, especially those from small companies touting unproven or new technologies or products.
- Don’t be pressured to make rushed decisions about investments you don’t understand. Before making a decision to invest, request written information that fully explains the investment.
- Don’t fall for unrealistic claims or offers touting guaranteed returns with little or no risk. Every investment involves some degree of risk.
- Do your homework. Contact the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising to check that both the seller and investment are registered. If they are not, don’t invest. Contact information is available on the division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/srf/srf_contact.
- If you suspect you are the victim of fraud, report it to your state securities regulator immediately.