Arlington, VA

As some Arlingtonians are still struggling to put their lives together after flash flooding in July, the county is continuing to work to repair flood-damaged public property.

Early estimates put damage to the county at $3.5 million, but Hannah Winant, a spokesperson for Arlington County Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, said estimates for the damage to county property has swelled to $5.8 million. Those costs include debris cleanup, emergency protective measures, and repairs to County facilities like parks and community centers.

Winant said bridges in Lubber Run and Glencarlyn parks suffered the worst damage from the storms. A storage building at Bon Air park was also seriously damaged, as were other pedestrian bridges, playgrounds and more across Arlington. Additionally, the County is assessing the erosion to local waterways that could require long-term fixes.

Arlington has submitted its preliminary assessment to the state, but after the state receives the assessment it must be validated.

“This process can go on for a few weeks, as crews triage the damage and more information becomes available,” Winant said. “This is where we are now.”

Once the state completes its assessment, that information is submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), after which the agency portions out funding and technical support for public properties that have been damaged.

“Reimbursement is also being sought through the County’s insurance,” Winant said. “During this time, the County cleans up from the disaster, removing the debris and cleaning right-of-way, and tries to get back to normal operations for the community such as opening parks and other affected facilities. The recovery process can be a long one and we appreciate the community’s patience and support as we navigate the process of requesting aid.”

Going forward, Winant predicted recovery costs will continue to increase as weather changes become more severe.

“Weather is consistently increasing in its severity and frequency,” Winant said “Nationally, both insured and uninsured losses continue to grow — so costs from disasters are rising as disaster frequency also increases.”

For homeowners, businesses, and renters who were affected by the flooding, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans. The filing deadline for physical property damage is Oct. 7, and the deadline for economic injury applications from business owners is May 7, 2020.

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This week’s devastating flash floods may be evidence of a bigger weather pattern shift, some experts say.

The storm that pummeled the Arlington dumped 3.3 inches of rain in one hour Monday morning, breaking the regional record. Some experts say this is part of a larger pattern of wetter weather — and possibly climate change.

The so-called supercell developed in Frederick County, Virginia, where NWS Meteorologist Jason Elliott says cool, dry winds from the north met with warm, wet winds from the south. From there the storm — which was about the side of Montgomery County, Md. — travelled about 20 miles per hour towards southern Maryland.

Unfortunately for Arlington, the heaviest part of the storm travelled down the Potomac River — straight through Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria and D.C. — overwhelming stormwater management systems and filling streets, homes, and businesses with water.

When a rainstorm hits, the runoff water not absorbed into the ground travels into the county’s stormwater pipes. However, too much water can fill the pipes, and flow out of manholes and storm drains.

“Water will then flow underneath of a road or a bridge and a stream will fill up and flow on top of a road or culvert,” said Aileen Winquist, Arlington’s Stormwater Management Program Manager. “That’s where damage can occur.”

Monday’s storm not only turned streams and streets into raging rapids, but also caused sewage backups in homes. Winquist said this is usually caused by water flooding sewer pipes and coming up through the floor drains in basements. It’s a problem residents in Westover and elsewhere face as they continue to recover from the flooding.

The county’s storm and sewer systems are overall in “good condition”, Winquist said, and crews continuing to repair corroded storm pipes and re-line old sewer pipes as needed.

“Typically the storm sewer system is designed for what’s known as a 10 year storm,” she added, referring the federal classification of a storm that has a 10% chance of occurring once every 10 years.

“It was easily raining 5 inches in an an hour, for half an hour,” said Elliot. “And nothing can handle something that heavy in that short a period of time.”

The county keeps a detailed map of every location in Arlington damaged in a flood and uses it prepare for future emergencies and prioritize routine repairs. Winquist declined to share a copy of the map, citing privacy concerns, but noted that Westover was not among the neighborhoods filled with water during Arlington’s last major flood back in 2006.

New flood plains can be caused by a variety of factors, such as problems with the storm water pipes or nearby development projects. But there’s also the issue of storms getting stronger and wetter.

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Prepare for more rain, and more flooding, the National Weather Service warns.

The NWS has issued a severe thunderstorm watch through 10 p.m. tonight, with a flash flood watch as well from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. due to the excessive amounts of rain the region’s seen recently.

Full details from the NWS:

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 3 PM EDT THIS
AFTERNOON THROUGH THIS EVENING…

The Flash Flood Watch continues for

* Portions of Maryland, The District of Columbia, and Virginia,
including the following areas, in Maryland, Anne Arundel,
Carroll, Central and Southeast Howard, Central and Southeast
Montgomery, Charles, Northern Baltimore, Northwest Harford,
Northwest Howard, Northwest Montgomery, Prince Georges,
Southeast Harford, and Southern Baltimore. The District of
Columbia. In Virginia, Arlington/Falls Church/Alexandria,
Eastern Loudoun, Fairfax, King George, Prince
William/Manassas/Manassas Park, and Stafford.

* From 3 PM EDT this afternoon through 11 PM EDT this evening.

* Showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop late this
afternoon and evening, with heavy rainfall rates likely. Given
saturated soil from this week`s excessive rainfall, any
additional heavy rain or repetitive thunderstorms may result in
rapid rises of water in streams and low lying areas.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead
to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation.

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action
should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.

Photo via @NWS_BaltWash

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Following days of relentless rain, a series of sinkholes have opened up in front of a condo complex in Rosslyn.

The front driveway and lawn of the Atrium Condominiums, located at 1530 Key Blvd, are now marked by the large pits. Two holes several feet deep have opened up around some of the complex’s front lawn, and another has caused cobblestones to buckle leading up to its driveway in front of the main entrance.

Traffic cones currently block off the complex’s driveway, including parts of it unaffected by the pits.

A tipster told ARLnow that the sinkholes first appeared “many weeks ago” and have “gradually grown as more rain has come” over the last few days.

The complex’s management company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the severity of the sinkholes, or when they might be fixed.

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A perilously perched tree has prompted the temporary closure of a playground near East Falls Church.

The severe rain storms of the last few days has caused a “tree-mergency” in Madison Manor Park (6225 12th Street N.).

Susan Kalish, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, says the rain managed to so thoroughly soak the ground at the park that the tree eventually tipped over. She says workers will be removing it “first thing” tomorrow morning (Thursday).

“After they have finished, parks crew will clean up any mess and refasten a section of fence that has been removed,” Kalish wrote in an email. “None of the play equipment has been damaged. One section of the perimeter timber has been dislodged by the tree’s roots and will have to be repaired once the tree is removed.”

Kalish said the county hopes to reopen the playground by “close of business tomorrow,” or Friday morning at the latest.

Parks and recreation workers plan to announce exactly when it will re-open on the department’s Twitter account.

Photo via @arlparksrec

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Morning Notes

Flash Flood Watch Remains, Though Rain is Subsiding — Weather watchers warn that a risk of floods remains through this afternoon, but things are set to get steadily dryer as Thursday and Friday get closer. [NWS]

Are Tolls Worth It on Virginia’s HOT Lanes? — A new study shows it’s a bit of a mixed bag for commuters, though anyone hopping on I-66 instead of Route 29 or Route 50 is probably getting their money’s worth. Researchers don’t see those arterial roads as viable alternatives, given the time savings 66 still offers during rush hour. [WTOP]

Metro Remains Less-Than-Ideal for Blind Riders — Months after a blind woman fell off a platform due to problems with Metro’s new 7000-series trains, the transit service is still scrambling to improve conditions for the visually impaired. [Washington Post]

Nearby: A Tornado Touched Down Near Thomas Jefferson High School — Officials believe a twister made a roughly one-minute-long appearance near the school, around the border of Alexandria and Annandale. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Keep an eye on the roads — the National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Arlington through 6:30 p.m. tonight (Tuesday).

The weather service estimates the D.C. region could see up to two inches of rain in total tonight, though storms are supposed to move out of the area quickly.

The flooding has already prompted some road closures, including on the G.W. Parkway, which county police say is closed in both directions:

More from the NWS:

The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a

* Flood Warning for…
The central District of Columbia…

Arlington County in northern Virginia…
Southeastern Fairfax County in northern Virginia…
The City of Alexandria in northern Virginia…

* Until 630 PM EDT.

* At 329 PM EDT, Doppler radar indicated thunderstorms producing
heavy rain which will cause flooding. Up to one inch of rain has
already fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of up to one inch are
possible.

* Some locations that may experience flooding include…

Arlington, Alexandria, Annandale, Springfield, Fort Washington,
Fort Hunt, Groveton, Falls Church, Huntington, Mantua, Fort
Belvoir, Nationals Park, Gallaudet University, Reagan National
Airport, Rosslyn, Crystal City, RFK Stadium, Burke, Lincolnia and
Lorton.

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(Updated at 7:35 p.m.) Friday’s wind storm has taken a toll on Arlington, sending trees toppling onto cars, houses and across roads, and knocking out power to tens of thousands.

As of 7:30 p.m., Dominion reported 14,663 customers without power in Arlington. An hour earlier, it appeared that the numbers were finally dropping, but thanks to continued strong winds it has, in fact, gone up.

A Dominion outage map showed that a large swath of residential North Arlington and a significant portion of the Fairlington neighborhood was without power as the sun started to set.

Across the D.C. region, nearly 600,000 were in the dark as of early evening.

Arlington County Police say they’ve responded to more than 250 calls for service since this morning, including 66 calls for trees down.

To help with the cleanup, which is expected to take at least a few days, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency.

“The order is designed to help Virginia mitigate any damage caused by high winds and to streamline the process that the Commonwealth uses to provide assistance to communities impacted,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

A High Wind Warning remains in effect until 6 a.m. Gusty winds are expected to continue overnight as the nor’easter makes its way north and pummels New England.

The National Weather Service says it clocked a wind gust of 71 miles per hour at Dulles International Airport earlier today. NWS is urging those in the D.C. area to remain vigilant as the winds continue to gust.

Widespread power outages are occurring. Travel is dangerous, especially for high profile vehicles, and motorists need to be aware of rapidly changing road conditions due to the potential of downed trees and power lines. Pedestrians will face very hazardous conditions, and need to be aware of wind-borne projectiles. People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches. If possible, remain in the lower levels of your homes during the windstorm, and avoid windows. If you use a portable generator, follow manufacturer’s instructions and do not use inside homes, garages, or apartments.

More local weather impacts via social media, after the jump.

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High winds are expected to wallop the Washington region tonight through Saturday and officials are asking the public to take precautions.

Wind gusts as strong as 60-70 miles per hour are possible from Friday from 4 a.m. through midnight, forecasters say. Wind gusts over 30 miles per hour are expected generally from tonight into Sunday.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued its own advisory, warning that roadways could be dangerous and that road closures could be possible due to downed trees and power lines or other road debris. Crews will begin working overnight to fix any infrastructure damage, the agency said.

VDOT issued a warning to drivers, and a reminder to:

  • Check road closures before you travel, and look at potential alternate routes.
  • Reduce your speeds and assume there may be a road obstruction ahead.
  • Move over for responders with blue, red, and amber lights, including VDOT and utility crews.
  • Always use your headlights, remember wipers on, lights on is the law.
  • Ensure gas tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.

AAA Mid-Atlantic issued its own warning, including a reminder to treat non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop.

“Motorists who venture out during the Nor’easter should brace themselves for driving into tempestuous side winds, which would buffet them off course and off the road, and into blustery head winds and turbulent tail winds,” AAA said. “Drive defensively or stay off the roads until the mercurial storm passes over.”

More advisories from the agencies via social media:

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/969252081319202816

https://twitter.com/ReadyArlington/status/969322520582205440

File photo

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There’s been a lot of clean-up in Arlington following last Thursday’s strong storms that produced a weak tornado.

The National Weather Service says the tornado formed adjacent to the Army Navy Country Club and lasted for six minutes on its 4.5 mile journey through Pentagon City and into Washington, D.C. The F-0 tornado had peak winds of 60-70 miles per hour.

The Army Navy Country Club property experienced quite a bit of damage, and a spokesperson issued the following statement to ARLnow on Monday:

“The tornado did interrupt some of the Club’s golf operations, as we had to close 18 of the 27 holes of golf in the Club’s Arlington location. Due to the tornado, we lost dozens of trees, several water coolers, trash cans, and benches on the course. We are fortunate that the path of the tornado did not cause any injuries or damages to the buildings.”

The last time a tornado was recorded in Arlington was on September 24, 2001, when an F-1 that originated in Fairfax County traveled northeast for 15 miles through Alexandria and Arlington, then it crossed the 14th Street Bridge into the District. It caused extensive damage and injured two people in south Arlington.

The scene was different for Thursday’s tornado in Arlington and the two others confirmed in the region that day, said Chris Strong, a warning coordination meteorologist with NWS Baltimore/Washington. Not only were the tornadoes weaker, but they also formed in a different manner.

“These weaker ones last week were basically eddies along a gust front, rather than more classic supercell thunderstorm tornadoes,” Strong says. “Those eddies produced small whirls of wind that in narrow corridors snapped some trees and caused siding and roofing damages.”

Some of that damage occurred when a portion of the facade and roof of the Macy’s at the Pentagon City mall ripped off and fell onto a car, resulting in one minor injury.

Technological advances have prompted changes in how local emergency managers warn the public about tornadoes and other weather emergencies. Some parts of the country, especially those that are more prone to tornadoes, use sirens as a warning. But sirens aren’t necessarily as effective in Arlington and the District, partially because of the dense buildings and foliage.

“Tornado sirens are not used much in this region of the country,” Strong said. “One of the reasons they work better in tornado alley is the wide open spaces with lack of trees that allows the sound to travel well.”

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Update at 11:20 p.m. — The National Weather Service confirms that an EF-0 tornado tracked through Arlington and into the District on Thursday.

Earlier: The storms that whipped through Arlington and the D.C. region yesterday brought power outages and damage, and more trees toppled today, according to the Arlington County Fire Department.

But now the Capital Weather Gang believes the storms caused something else: a rare tornado in Arlington.

As CWG reported, the National Weather Service officially confirmed tornadoes in Herndon and in Southeast D.C. on Thursday. But the CWG team lists several other areas where they believe small tornadoes may have touched down, including in South Arlington near the Pentagon.

Radar indicated rotation there around 1:40 p.m., as noted on Twitter by weather enthusiast Ian Livingston.

Photographic evidence of damage near the Army Navy Country Club is consistent with tornadic activity, according to CWG. That’s also close to where one person was hurt when part of the Macy’s facade and roof at the Pentagon City mall was damaged and fell onto a car yesterday.

The National Weather Service reportedly is assessing damage near the Tidal Basin to determine if a tornado occurred there and along the H Street Corridor; the same storm caused the Arlington circulation. The Capital Weather Gang indicates the possible Arlington tornado may have been a separate occurrence from the one at the Tidal Basin, or that one tornado may have passed over the entire area in question.

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