This weekend, locals can stock up on virtually everything needed to batten down the hatches in the event of a natural disaster, or to go back to school, without paying Virginia sales tax.
Hurricane season, which will last through Nov. 30, is about to reach its peak, with 15-21 tropical systems potentially forming this year. People can get a host of hurricane readiness products sales tax-free through Sunday.
The tax exemption is part of Virginia’s Sales Tax Holiday, when folks can buy certain emergency and school supplies, as well as energy-saving devices, sales tax-free. The holiday started this morning (Friday) and will last until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. People can save between 3.5-7% this weekend, according to a video about the holiday produced last year.
In addition to hurricanes, over the years, Arlingtonians have had to be prepared for massive floods, hurricanes, earthquakes big and small, and even tornadoes, as well as the local power outages caused by high winds and rainstorms over the last year.
The list of hurricane-preparedness essentials includes some larger items, if they’re less than $1,000:
- Portable generators and generator power cords
- Inverters and inverter power cables
- Photovoltaic devices that generate electricity
Gas-powered chain saws qualify if they’re less than $350, and chain saw accessories less than $60 are also exempt.
The list includes smaller items useful for most emergencies:
- First aid kits
- Storm shutter devices
- Batteries and chargers for cell phones and all batteries except those for cars and boats
- Portable, battery-operated or self-powered radios and light sources
- Bungee cords and rope
- Tie down kits
- Duct tape
- Gas or diesel fuel tanks
- Ice packs and reusable ice
- Water storage containers
- Non-electric food storage coolers
- Bottled water
- Manual can openers
Other home safety products include:
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Smoke detectors
- Fire extinguishers
With back to school around the corner, folks can buy anything from scissors, tape and glue to socks, shoes and uniforms, as well as hand sanitizing soap and disinfecting wipes. Other cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, such as masks, however, are exempt.
Energy Star or WaterSense products, such as toilets, faucets and refrigerators, are eligible of they cost less than $2,500 per item and are purchased for noncommercial home or personal use only.
More Signs of Coronavirus Preps — Emptier shelves at local grocery stores, less traffic on the roads: there are signs that locals are taking the coronavirus threat seriously. During the first hour of yesterday’s evening rush hour, traffic on I-395 was relatively light. Last night, there was barely any canned soup left on the shelves at the Lee-Harrison Harris Teeter. [Twitter, Twitter]
Some Churches Close, Others Announce Changes — Episcopal churches in the D.C. area have suspended worship services, while the Catholic Diocese of Arlington announced a series of measures intended to help prevent the spread of disease. [Washington Post, Press Release]
Events Are Being Cancelled in Arlington — “Out of an abundance of caution, the Rosslyn BID has decided to cancel our Arts & Beats series this March and April. We are hoping to run these events later this year and we will be evaluating future events on a case-by-case basis.” [Twitter]
Arlington Conferences Cancelled — “Code for America was scheduled to host its annual summit at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, from March 11 through 13. A Code for America spokesperson told Technical.ly that this would have been the first time the nonprofit was hosting the annual summit in the D.C. area, as it normally takes place in San Francisco. Code for America release a statement on Friday announcing the summit’s cancellation.” [Technically DC]
Local Real Estate Still Hot, Though — “Listing service Bright MLS said closed sales throughout the Washington metro area were up 13% from a year ago to a 10-year high… In Arlington County, Virginia, the median overall price of what sold was $635,000, up 12.4%. But the median price of a stand-alone house that sold in Arlington last month was $1.14 million, up 19.2% from last February.” [WTOP]
Arlington Works on Tree Preservation — “It’s not just housing affordability and increased traffic Arlington County officials are concerned about in the wake of Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival. They’re also watching out for the trees. County officials are proposing to add one urban forester position to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The new hire is needed to expand tree preservation efforts and work through the surge of site plans developers are pitching in the area of Amazon’s HQ2.” [Washington Business Journal]
Over the past 24 hours, as Hurricane Florence has gotten closer to a predicted landfall on the Carolina coast, the risk of major impacts here in the D.C. area have decreased.
Currently, it appears that rain is the main danger. The 2-4 inches currently predicted could be enough to cause flooding locally, as the region is already waterlogged from well above average rainfall, but is a far cry from the 6-20 inches of rain predicted for large parts of southern and central Virginia.
.@NWSWPC is forecasting a high to moderate risk of flash flooding starting Thursday across most of eastern North Carolina from #Florence. 15-25" with isolated maximum amounts of 35" are possible over portions of North Carolina and Virginia. https://t.co/f4Czb6sTOg pic.twitter.com/kNpMvPfXuj
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 11, 2018
Though it looks like we’ll be spared the brunt of the storm, Arlington’s emergency management department is urging residents to be prepared for the worst nonetheless.
The agency released the following set of hurricane preparedness tips yesterday.
As the Hurricane Florence gets closer, there is an increasing risk of direct impacts to our region. The major concerns with this storm are rainfall amounts and wind speeds. Excessive rain may cause flooding and as the ground becomes more saturated, it will be easier for winds to knock over trees and take down power lines. Be prepared for power outages. Do not report power outages to 9-1-1, unless there is a life-threatening emergency. To report trees or wires down or flooded roadways, you can contact the non-emergency number at 703-558-2222. Remember: do not travel through flooded roadways. Turn around, don’t drown.
The Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management is encouraging all residents to prepare now for Hurricane Florence. Do not wait until the day before. Here are some tips to get you and your family ready:
- Be Informed: Stay aware of things going on by having multiple ways to get information and keep an eye on the forecast.
- Log into your Arlington Alert account to update your information and sign up for weather and traffic alerts.
- Follow Ready Arlington on Facebook and Twitter
- Plan Ahead: Make an emergency plan, and discuss it with each family member.
- Plan for possible evacuation.
- Fill your gas tank in your car.
- Have cash on hand. During power outages, ATMs and credit card machine will not work.
- Use text and social media when able to get in touch with family members and plan for what to do if there is no phone service or internet.
- Have names and phone numbers of family members, utilities, doctors/pharmacists, etc written down.
- Prepare your home:
- Clear gutters and downspouts of debris.
- Trim trees and shrubbery.
- Secure or bring inside any outdoor furniture or loose items.
- If you have a generator remember to only run it outdoors.
- Place a thermometer in your fridge and freezer in case of power outages. Any food that has reached 40 degrees or higher should be thrown out. If doors are kept closed, food in the fridge will be kept cold for about 4 hours, and the freezer for about 48 hours.
- Turn off or disconnect appliances. If the power goes out, a momentary power surge can cause damage.
- Move items in your basement off the floor in case of flooding.
- Review your insurance policy.
- Build a Kit: Get supplies together that you may need for your family for at least 3 days. Make sure to include the needs of pets.
- Have food that is nonperishable that does not require power to make.
- Ensure you have flashlights and check batteries. Do not use candles as they can be a fire hazard.
- Keep cell phones charged. Consider an external charger.
- Refill medication/first aid kits.
September Is National Preparedness Month — Arlington is marking National Preparedness month by reminding residents to sign up for emergency alerts, create an emergency plan and maintain disaster supplies. [Arlington County]
Crash on Columbia Pike — A car veered off the side of Columbia Pike and knocked a light pole over on the sidewalk in front of Lost Dog Cafe. No serious injuries were reported. The aftermath of the crash was caught on video. [Facebook]
Wreck Closes Northbound GW Parkway — Northbound traffic on the GW Parkway was diverted onto Spout Run Parkway for part of the AM rush hour due to a crash this morning near the overlooks. [Washington Post]
Rainy Day Today — Arlington can expect 0.5-1″ of rain throughout the day today as a cold front passes through. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton
A Winter Storm Warning is now in effect, with forecasters calling for 6-10 inches of snow through noon tomorrow (Tuesday).
As of 4:20 p.m., Arlington County said it’s transitioning from a “Phase 1” to a “Phase 2” snow response.
“Snow crews began pre-treating primary and secondary routes earlier today with brine,” according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. “Most streets had residual brine from Saturday’s event, which will help with the initial snowfall this afternoon. Trucks were also hooked up with plows, chains and spreaders in preparation.”
“We’ll be on full-deployment with approximately 50 trucks until the snow stops tomorrow,” Whalen McDaniel said.
Thanks to frigid temperatures throughout the weekend, snow is sticking on pavement and grassy surfaces. Authorities are asking residents to stay home during the snowstorm, if possible, and plan for treacherous driving conditions in the days following the storm.
“Virginia State Police is advising all motorists to delay travel plans for tonight and/or Tuesday morning, as roads will be treacherous,” VSP said in a press release. “With the forecasted freezing temperatures, any snow and ice accumulations are expected to stick around for a few days. So it is important to prepare your home, family, and vehicle in advance.”
MetroAccess service is being suspended as of 6:00 p.m. Monday and will remain suspended Tuesday, according to WMATA. Metrobuses are suspended from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m., then will operate under Metro’s severe snow plan. Metrorail will operate on a Saturday schedule on Tuesday.
Arlington County Police say several accidents have been reported since the snow started falling.
We're starting to see vehicle accidents. Drive for the conditions and remember, posted speed limits are intended for dry conditions #snow
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) February 16, 2015
Photo (top) courtesy @SDfromDC
Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) encourages residents to make a commitment to being better prepared for emergencies in 2014, perhaps even by making it a new year’s resolution.
OEM highlights the statewide Ready Virginia initiative and asks Arlington residents to join in the campaign by having a plan in case of emergencies.
“I believe we all have a role in emergency management by ensuring that we are prepared, that we have a plan and that we get involved,” said Arlington County Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown.
Families should devise an emergency plan and go over it together. All members of the family should understand crucial aspects of the plan such as where to meet if the family is separated. Post the plan in an easily viewed place, such as on the refrigerator. Answer the following questions when coming up with the plan:
- Do you and your family members have contact phone numbers memorized or written down and available in backpacks and wallets?
- Do you have a plan on how to meet up with family if you are separated?
- Do you know how to contact your children’s school in case of an emergency?
- Do you have three days of emergency supplies and water set aside?
The emergency kit should contain enough of the following items to last for three days:
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Non-perishable food and a can opener
- First aid kit and medications
- Pet supplies
Home isn’t the only place residents need to be prepared. OEM notes that emergencies can happen at work and in the car, so separate plans should be made for safety in those locations. For example, OEM spokesman John Crawford noted that during the Navy Yard shooting last year, some people were required to “shelter in place.” Many did not have adequate food, water or medications in their work area. In addition to those supplies, Crawford also recommends keeping a small flashlight, batteries and a battery operated cell phone charger at work.
Having emergency contact numbers written on a paper and kept in a purse or wallet can come in handy should a cell phone battery die.
“When the emergency comes, all our contact information is in our cell phones, a majority of phone numbers are there,” said Crawford. “If you lose the ability to get that information and your phone is dead, you can’t access emergency numbers.”
The current cold snap is another example of a situation when preparedness can be beneficial. Drivers should prepare for the possibility of becoming stranded by keeping plenty of gas in their vehicles and keeping cell phones charged. Have extra blankets and snacks in the car as well.
“Winter preparedness may be a little bit different from summer preparedness, but if you’re prepared for one emergency, you’re pretty much prepared for every emergency,” said Crawford. “In the Snowmageddon a couple years ago, people were stranded for hours on the GW Parkway. The lessons we learned from that is that people were not prepared. People needed water and food and they didn’t have it. They needed blankets and didn’t have it.”
One of the important factors about having preparedness plans is to practice them often so they become second nature. Not being well versed in all aspects of the plan could be dangerous in an emergency when stress could cause details to be forgotten.
“If you train enough in anything, and then the disaster comes, you won’t think twice about what you have to do,” Crawford said. “You’ll already know what to do.”
The Arlington Prepares mobile app can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. Residents can also sign up for Arlington Alert, which allows the county to contact you during an emergency by sending messages to your email or mobile device.
Arlington County will participate in a statewide tornado drill tomorrow (Tuesday) as part of Tornado Preparedness Day.
The County is reminding residents that a tornado can strike in Arlington, and that it’s important to prepare for such an event ahead of time.
From an Arlington County media release:
March 12, 2013 is Tornado Preparedness Day in Arlington County. Unlike hurricane season, there is no such thing as a “tornado season,” and no part of the Commonwealth is immune from tornadoes. They can hit at any time of the year and at any time of the day.
Every family, business and organization should do two things to get ready:
- Get a NOAA Weather Radio with SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) alerts.
- Participate in the statewide tornado drill Tuesday, March 12, at 9:45 a.m.
Arlington schools, businesses and residents have an opportunity to practice their tornado safety plans. At the same time, the National Weather Service (NWS) will be testing their public warning systems.
“The best and fastest way for anyone to get a tornado warning is by NOAA Weather Radio,” said Bill Sammler, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. “With a weather radio, you get weather data directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. When we issue a tornado warning, the weather radio sounds an alarm or flashes lights and then gives information on where the storm is, which way it’s moving, and telling people in its path to take cover. This radio could be a lifesaver.”
NOAA Weather Radios with SAME alerts are available at electronics and sporting goods stores, discount and department stores, and online. They come in battery-powered models, and many also have AM/FM bands. A special needs NOAA Weather Radio is available as well. The special-needs NOAA Weather Radio can warn deaf and hard-of-hearing persons of hazardous conditions, giving them around-the-clock, up-to-the-minute weather information.
The general rule for tornado safety is “go low and stay low”, which means go to the lowest level of the structure, away from windows and crouch in a low position with your head covered.
A tornado watch means current weather conditions may result in a tornado. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted. If a tornado warning has been issued for your area, you should take cover immediately.
The majority of tornadoes occur between 3 and 9 pm. Think of where you would normally be during that time…at school, work, home, or in the car. You may only have a few seconds to react. Decide NOW where you would go if a tornado warning were issued.
Tornadoes can occur with little or no advance warning. It is important to have a weather radio nearby so you can listen for tornado and other severe weather watches and warnings.
If the National Weather service issues a tornado warning for Arlington, your weather radio will sound an alert, indicating that you need to move to a safe area immediately.
Sign up for Arlington Alert to receive free emergency messages within seconds to pagers, cell phones and e-mail. This is a great way to receive emergency information and critical safety messages when you need them most. To sign up at no cost, go to www.arlingtonalert.com. Alerts are available in Spanish, also.
Pre-set your battery operated radio to 1700AM Arlington for up to date emergency information including weather emergencies. You may also access 1700AM Arlington by calling 1-415-655-0811. (Long distance charges apply.)
For more information about tornado preparedness, visit the Arlington Office of Emergency Management website.
For help in conducting a tornado drill and to register for the statewide drill, go to www.ReadyVirginia.gov. Although registration is not required, people participating in the statewide drill are encouraged to sign up to show their support. The annual drill is a joint effort of Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and NWS.
Arlington County has declared Sept. 23-29 “Be Prepared Week.”
Arlington officials are encouraging residents and businesses “to do something toward preparedness” — like downloading the “Arlington Prepares” smartphone app or putting together a “go bag” — during the week. The Arlington Office of Emergency Management is also asking people to sign an online “preparedness pledge.”
The county released a short video (above) to get the word out about Be Prepared Week.
The agency says it is calling in additional support personnel, who will be “on duty throughout the weekend to respond to any situations that may arise.”
WMATA is supplying chain saws to Metro drivers, “for use in the event of downed trees.” Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles may be detoured around fallen trees and flooded areas, as necessary. Metro is also checking all drainage pumps and clearing out debris from drainage areas near Metro stations.
“Supervisors will monitor critical locations, such as bus garages, parking garages, and flood-prone areas throughout the weekend,” Metro said in a press release.
Metro has placed more than 2,000 sandbags around the escalators of Metrorail stations that have a history of flooding, including the Foggy Bottom and King Street stations. None of the listed stations are in Arlington.
“We’re putting all of our resources in place to address any issues that arise out of the extreme weather conditions this weekend,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “We will be updating our customers through our website, Twitter, email alerts and the media.”
See our earlier post on Arlington County’s hurricane preparations here.
Update at 11:55 a.m. — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency in advance of the hurricane.
Arlington County is bracing for impacts from Hurricane Irene.
Irene, which is expected to be the strongest hurricane to hit the Northeast in decades, could bring torrential rains and high winds to the Mid-Atlantic region Saturday night and throughout the day on Sunday. In anticipation of the storm, the county is “mobilizing both people and equipment,” according to Jack Brown, Director of Emergency Management for Arlington County.
The police, fire and parks departments will be bringing in additional personnel this weekend, Brown told ARLnow.com. The county’s 911 call center will also have additional employees on hand, and the Office of Emergency Management will be staffed throughout the weekend.
County crews are cleaning out drains to ensure the expected heavy rains will be able to flow into storm sewers. The parks department is removing picnic tables and other equipment from areas near streams and river beds, in anticipation of flooding. The county is also “developing plans for shelters, if the need arises,” according to Brown.
The county and Dominion Power both say they’re preparing for downed trees and power lines in the hurricane’s wake. The county has backup communications systems — including satellite phones and amateur radio stations — in case cell phones or existing radio systems go down during the storm.
“It could be challenging, yes, but since 9/11 a lot of steps have been taken to ensure better communications,” Brown said.
Most importantly, says Brown, Arlington is working to get information about hurricane preparedness out to the public.
“The first concern is the public safety,” he said. “If we do have impacts from this storm, people need to be prepared for that… It’s all about personal and family preparedness.”
Brown said any sort of evacuation of Arlington looks unlikely at this point. In fact, he’s encouraging people to stay at home.
“In most cases, people are better off just staying home and hunkering down,” Brown advised. “Don’t go out on the road… just have enough food and supplies to weather the storm.”
“We don’t want people out in the middle of a crisis getting in the way,” he added.
Do you have any ideas for ways Arlington County can improve its emergency preparedness? If so, the county’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission wants to hear from you.
The commission will be holding a public forum from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, in the county board room at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, to gather “public input on preparedness and the County’s handling of emergency events.”
The forum is intended to coincide with the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“How would you rate the County’s handling of snowstorms and other disasters since 9/11,” the commission will ask residents. “Do you consider yourself better prepared for emergencies today than you were 10 years ago?”