Arlington, VA

Over forty trees are planned to be removed to make way for a new elementary school in Westover, but Arlington Public Schools is hosting one last meeting about potential tree-saving solutions before construction starts.

A discussion is scheduled with neighbors on Monday (Sept. 16) at the edge of the grove will involve discussion of whether any of the trees can be saved. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the basketball court on the Reed site (1644 N. McKinley Road).

The current plans call for the removal of roughly 42 trees to facilitate construction that will add to the building that houses the Westover Library and, soon, a new neighborhood elementary school.

Residents have expressed concerns about the removal of the grove, which includes a variety of maple, cedar and mulberry trees. A presentation on the project noted that an inventory of the trees was prepared by a certified arborist and tree removal was recommended.

According to the presentation:

Decisions on tree removal balanced: Building location and required excavation, site improvements (play areas, universally accessible walkways, etc.) and underground utilities (sanitary, storm, geothermal, etc.).

The designs for the site include adding 82 replacement trees, well above the 49 trees required to be planted according to county regulations.

But the plans have drawn some criticism from neighbors and local environmentalists. County Board candidate Audrey Clement specifically addressed the County Board’s approval of the project for its destruction of the trees at a debate this past Monday  (Sept. 9). Many of the trees are larger, like a silver maple tree 4.5 feet wide.

At the meeting next Monday, the presentation says neighbors will be invited to discuss the removal with an arborist and county staff.

But any moving of the remaining trees will have to occur quickly: construction of the new school is scheduled to start by the end of September.

The Westover neighborhood suffered extensive damage from flooding this summer, but school officials said the new school will include updated stormwater protections.

“Stormwater structures and basins are much enhanced from what exists on-site now as per current state stormwater requirements,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

Map via Arlington Public Schools

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Arlington County Board incumbents fought to hold their ground against independents over Amazon incentives and housing topics at a debate Monday evening.

At the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum at U.Group in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive), Democratic incumbents Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol faced off against independent challengers Audrey Clement and Arron O’Dell.

One of the moments of back-and-forth criticism among the candidates came over the redevelopment of a number of market-rate affordable housing complexes in the Westover neighborhood. Clement has frequently criticized the County Board for what she said was the “preventable demolition” of the Westover garden apartments.

The redevelopment was by-right, meaning the developer did not need County Board approval. But Clement said the County Board could have designated the apartments part of a historic district and preserved the homes.

Overall, Clement argued that development drives up costs to build housing and that even dedicated affordable housing units come at a steep cost.

“The average cost of a new [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] unit is in excess of $400,000,” Clement said. “Most of the units are not affordable. Because the units are not affordable, the income-qualified people who move in, 30 percent of them have to have rent subsidies to pay the nominal amount of rent that they do pay. The taxpayers are hit twice, they have to pay their own rent and their own mortgage and they have to pay someone else’s because the cost of building that unit was astronomical.”

Dorsey fired back that rather than use the historic district designation, the County Board is working to change the regulations to protect affordable communities from redevelopment.

“In the Westover reference that Ms. Clement talked about, while she thinks the Board has done nothing, what we did do was take a courageous stand… and stopped the perverse incentive that led people to take affordable communities and turn them into by-right townhouses,” Dorsey said. “We paused that option and put it into the special exemption process so that we created options to preserve that housing.”

“We’re studying ways that can be better purposed to provide long term, market-based affordable housing,” Dorsey added. So you have to figure out where you’re doing harm and stop doing harm to create new options to preserve affordability both through direct subsidies and through the market.”

O’Dell, meanwhile, said the County should do more to accommodate for “tiny apartments” aimed at people moving to Arlington immediately after college, who may need an affordable place to live but not a lot of space.

“When you talk about housing affordability, you need to have a variety of types of units,” O’Dell said. “We should look at the lower incomes that fall into the 60 percent bracket and give them opportunities to possibly move in and look at places to live.”

Cristol said the County should work to open the door to other types of housing, pointing to the recent legalization of detached accessory dwelling units as an example and noting the large amount of land in Arlington zoned for only single-family housing.

“One of the most important things we can do is legalizing alternative forms,” said Cristol. “There are so many housing forms that could offer folks not only an opportunity to rent but [also to] buy and it’s literally illegal to build them in huge swaths of the county… There’s room for creative ideas, this is an area where we need partnership in the private sector, particularly for those who develop housing.”

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It’s been a tumultuous road to recovery for two Westover stores devastated by this summer’s record-breaking floods.

Ayers Variety and Hardware and Westover Market and Beer Garden are local institutions that were unfortunately placed directly in the path of floodwaters. Waters flooded both stores and knocked out power to the block.

“Every week it gets better,” said Devin Hicks, manager of Westover Market. “This place has never looked so clean and the community support has been tremendous.”

As Westover Market approaches its ten-year anniversary, Hicks said he’s feeling optimistic.

“It’s been a fight the entire time,” Hicks said. “But everyone’s been remarking that they’re happy to see us persevere. It’s been a rough two months, but it gets better every day.”

Next door, however, recovery has not been as easy for Ayers. The local store has been in business for 70 years selling everything from gardening supplies to plastic toys. But Kristy Peterkin, a manager for the store, said the business was already hard-hit by recent tariffs from the ongoing trade war with China.

“At the same time as the flood, one tier of the China trade tariff hit,” Peterkin said. “Now the second tier is starting to take effect. That’s a big hit.”

Peterkin says the company tries to buy American, but most of the stock they sell is almost exclusively manufactured overseas.

“Probably about 75 percent of what we sell is not American-made,” Peterkin said, “and we’ve seen a 25 percent increase in the prices. Walmart absorbs that price, but we can’t.”

The flood heavily exacerbated what was already a not-so-great situation. Water poured into the Ayers basement, ruining thousands of dollars in merchandise and leaving the store with nowhere to put overstocked goods. Today, half of the basement remains unusable.

“Until that’s fixed, we have nowhere to store additional [stock] that comes in,” Peterkin said. “We’re out of money to spend paying people to fix things, so repairs are on us now, which takes a lot longer. My husband and I work evenings trying to clear the basement.”

The basement flooding has left the store with limited inventory, as Peterkin said they have to be more careful about what they purchase because there’s no room to store surplus and they can’t afford to take a risk on items that they aren’t sure will sell.

“We’re kind of in a rough place right now,” Peterkin said. “I don’t know how that will look in the long run. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Both stores said a GoFundMe campaign set up to support Westover retailers was a tremendous boon at a time of dire need. Hicks said Westover Market received roughly $30,000 and was particularly thankful to Whitlow’s On Wilson in Clarendon, which hosted a fundraiser event for the Westover stores.

“The event at Whitlow’s was great,” Hicks said. “It had a great turnout, there was great music, and everyone really rallied.”

Ayers received roughly $32,000 and Peterkin said the funding took a chunk out of the estimated $250,000 in lost sales and merchandise.

Peterkin also said there was an initial uptick in sales after the flood where members of the community came out to support the store, but since then numbers have dwindled back down and revenue is flat.

“In business, flat basically means down,” Peterkin said. “If business is flat, everything else still goes up, like rent and payroll and insurance. But to stay competitive, we can’t raise prices to accommodate.”

With winter on the way and a heating unit still out of service from the floods, Peterkin said there are still more costs looming on the horizon and no clear way to afford to pay for them.

There are also concerns that if heavy storms sweep through the area again, the same damage will happen all over. During the floods, Hicks said he saw the sewage pipes in the area become almost immediately overwhelmed and start spewing the water back up into the streets.

“The county needs to address this,” Hicks said. “They need to clean the sewage drains. They have to address it county-wide because it’s only going to get worse.”

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Morning Notes

Woman Arrested for Burning Flag Near W-L High — “A woman was arrested for burning an American flag on an overpass over I-66 in Arlington, police say. Kayla Caniff, 22, was charged with property destruction after police say she burned a flag attached to a chain link fence on the N. Stafford Street overpass, north of the Ballston area, at about 11:55 p.m. Thursday.” [NBC Washington]

County Website Goes Down — The Arlington County website was down for an extended period of time over Labor Day weekend. [Twitter]

Lucky Dog Takes in Pups from Hurricane’s Path — “While Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas — thousands of miles away in Arlington, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue plotted a rescue mission… The Carolinas are projected to be in the storm’s path and Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is partnered with a shelter in South Carolina. So the organization’s volunteers met an animal control officer part of the way there to take 19 of the shelter’s dogs.” [WJLA]

APS to Review Westover Tree Plan — “Facing community unrest in Westover, Arlington Public Schools plans to take another look at the potential of saving more trees during construction of a new elementary school on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard. Following an Aug. 29 meeting with residents, the school system has directed that ‘before the trees are removed, we have the contractor stake out the site and renumber the trees.'” [InsideNova]

Energy Plan Concerns: Feds and Trees — Arlington County’s impending update to its Community Energy Plan, which sets a net zero carbon emissions goal, is an important step in fighting climate change, some advocates say, though additional action is still needed on the state and federal level. Others, despite supporting the goal, are concerned that achieving it may come at the cost of the area’s tree canopy. [Washington Post, Arlington County]

Arlington’s Many Advocacy Orgs — “My viewing [of the Netflix documentary ‘The Family’] got me thinking of the many newsmaking organizations — of all political stripes — that have long populated our suburb so close to the action of the nation’s capital. Wilson Blvd. and Crystal City alone are home to enough colorful groups to generate a slew of political and public policy contretemps.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Reminder: Be Careful on the Roads Today — It’s the first day of school, kids will be walking to school and there are new traffic patterns around some schools. Arlington County Police are conducting “a high-visibility traffic enforcement campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” today. [ARLnow, Arlington County]

Photo courtesy David Johnson

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Morning Notes

Arlington Man Sentenced for Hate Crime — “A 61-year-old Arlington man has been sentenced to 60 months in prison for committing a hate crime. William Syring was sentenced Thursday after threatening employees of the Arab American Institute ‘because of their race and national origin,’ the Department of Justice said in a press release.” [WUSA 9]

Westover Water Main Update — “The leak beneath 5800 block of Washington Boulevard was fixed overnight but per policy, two galvanized service lines need replacement. Friday night expect detours both directions beginning 8pm. Water service shutoff in the area after close of business.” [Twitter]

Man Who Survived on Coke Talks — “From his bed at Virginia Hospital Center, reluctant newsmaker Glenn Smith gave me his version of his widely reported mishap. The 77-year-old homeowner on N. Trinidad St. in the Williamsburg area made local TV and online news last week after he suffered a fall in his kitchen and survived alone on the floor for five days — taking nourishment from his nearby stash of Coca-Cola.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Firms on Inc. 500 — Four Arlington-based firms are on the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing U.S. companies. [Washington Business Journal, Inc. Magazine]

Case of the Misplaced Door — “Someone decided to leave this large structure reclined in the entrance of my house 2 days ago. My HoA manager @Associa is not providing any help. Can @planArlingtonVA come to the rescue?” [Twitter]

Rosslyn Startup Expanding — “Hungry, the Arlington-based food technology startup that has drawn investments from celebrities such as Usher and Jay-Z, is expanding into Boston.” [Washington Business Journal]

Citizen’s Police Academy Applications Open — “The Arlington County Police Department is now accepting applications for the 23rd Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA). The CPA is an educational program designed to create better understanding and communication between police and the citizens they serve.” [Arlington County]

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Water service in parts of the Westover neighborhood may be interrupted tonight due to emergency water main repairs.

County crews are planning to dig up portions of the road to investigate a leak along the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, near the post office and the intersection with N. McKinley Road.

One eastbound lane of Washington Blvd is expected to be closed starting around 9 p.m. Water service may be turned off for some around midnight, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.

Photo via Google Maps

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Over $77,000 has been raised in a GoFundMe campaign to support Westover retailers damaged by a flash flood earlier this month.

The campaign started the day after the flood by a customer at Ayers Variety & Hardware (5853 Washington Blvd) with an initial aim of $25,000. As of today, the campaign has raised $77,231 out of a new $100,000 goal.

The first $70,000 collected for the campaign is planned to be released sometime this week, according to the GoFundMe page, with Ayers set to receive 41 percent of the proceeds while Westover Market and Beer Garden (5863 Washington Blvd) will receive 35 percent of the proceeds. The two businesses were the most heavily hit by the flooding.

Additionally, the Forest Inn is planned to receive 15 percent of the proceeds, while Grand Hunan Restaurant, Blue Groove Soundz, and Pete’s Barbershop will all receive 3 percent.

The GoFundMe page pledged that 100 percent of funds collected will be delivered directly to the merchants by cashier’s checks drawn on a Wells Fargo donation account.

On the surface, business as usual has resumed in the stores on the north side of the 5800 block of Washington Blvd. But all of the stores faced days without sales, and some are still dealing with the damages invisible from the street.

An employee at Ayers Variety & Hardware said the staff is still working to clear away flood-damaged items from the store’s basement, which held all of the store’s stock and was filled to the ceiling with water. Behind the store, rows of ruined merchandise are stacked near the trash disposal.

Kristy Peterkin, a manager at Ayers Variety & Hardware, estimated the storm caused at least $100,000 in damages to their merchandise.

Staff at Pete’s Barbershop said the store was without power — and without business — for five days.

The campaign is scheduled to end in August.

Meanwhile, a fundraiser for the Westover merchants is planned for 5-9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4 at Whitlow’s on Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon, according to manager Jon Williams.

Tickets to the Whitlow’s event are $20 at the door. Raffle prizes, food and drink specials, and live music planned for the occasion.

A separate GoFundMe campaign is also underway to benefit the Westover residents affected by the flash flood emergency. That campaign has raised just over $16,000.

A fundraiser for the Westover residents is planned this coming Friday, Aug. 2, from 6-9 p.m. at the Westover Market and Beer Garden. The event will feature live music and a tap takeover by Founders Brewing.

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Weeks after flooding ravaged homes and businesses in Westover, nearly a dozen neighbors came together to help one family get at least one piece of their life back together.

After Wendy Naus put out a message on the neighborhood’s group-text chain asking if anyone was available to help move her shed, which was washed across the yard by floodwaters, around ten people showed up and spent two hours gradually shifting the large, blue shed back into its former position.

Some of those who came to help still have not moved back into their own flood-damaged homes, said Naus.

“On the one hand I’m in awe of these people, many of whom still aren’t living in their homes,” she said. “On the other hand, I’m not surprised,” given the close-knit nature of the community.

“I’m more shocked that it worked,” Naus added. “The look on everyone’s face when we moved it… we were shocked that it worked.”

Naus jacked the building up onto cinder blocks, and the neighbors laid planks down across the yard like tracks to slide it back into position. A time-lapse video she shared (below) shows the painstaking work in progress.

Naus said this is just the latest example of how the neighborhood has rallied and helped each other in the days and weeks after floods swept through many local homes. When Naus needed some help dismantling the damaged tiles in her basement, five locals showed up to help clear away the rubble.

“The same group of neighbors on this one small block have all been helping each other out over the last few weeks,” Naus said. “I’ve been hashtagging ‘#BestBlockInAmerica’ for weeks.”

But for the residents of Westover, normalcy is still out of reach.

“It’s been slow,” Naus said. “The air conditioning has been replaced and our missing door and windows have been boarded up. It’s safe, but not it’s just the waiting game for longer-term things. We’re still waiting to hear back from the County on mitigation plans for the future since everyone’s reluctant to work on their basements. It’s still livable, but there’s a long road ahead.”

In the meantime, Naus said it was nice to see everyone smiling and happy at a small celebration after the shed was moved back.

“We all just needed a win,” Naus said. “The shed symbolizes a tangible thing that’s sort of a positive in the aftermath of this flood. It was a morale boost for us.”

Photos 1 & 2 courtesy Wendy Naus

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Morning Notes

(Updated on 07/22/19) Office Vacancy Rate Dropping — “The commercial vacancy rate in the County continues to improve. The vacancy rate as of the second quarter of 2019 stands at 16.6%, down nearly 5% from its historic high of 21% in 2015. Arlington Economic Development also announced it successfully closed 26 deals in FY 2019, representing 7.2 million square feet of office space and 43,000 jobs.” [Arlington County]

County Adopts New Bathroom Policy — “The Arlington County government has adopted what amounts to a […] policy for government-building restrooms and locker rooms. The policy, outlined to County Board members on July 16, will formally allow any individual to use a male or female restroom ‘that corresponds with gender identity or expression,’ county staff said.” [InsideNova]

Human Remains Found Near GW Parkway — Human remains, in a skull, have reportedly been found near the GW Parkway and Reagan National Airport, in the same area where a D.C. cadaver dog was hurt earlier this week, prompting a medevac flight. The dog is now recovering from serious injuries. U.S. Park Police are investigating the source of the remains. [Fox 5, Washington PostWTOP]

New Provost, Plans for Marymount — “Marymount is proud to welcome the university’s new Provost, Hesham El-Rewini, Ph.D., P.E., who officially begins his duties on campus this week… ‘We have bold plans for the future of Marymount as we strive to become an elite Catholic institution that is nationally recognized for innovation,’ said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University.” [Marymount University]

GoFundMe for Westover Residents — A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to benefit residents of Westover whose homes were damaged by flash flooding last week. So far more than $8,000 has been raised. [GoFundMe]

Big Crane Assisting With DCA Project — “A 250 ft. crane is being used to lift and put steel into place for a new 14-gate concourse that will replace Gate 35X” at Reagan National Airport. [Twitter]

Pentagon City Apartment Sold for Big Bucks — “Dweck Properties Inc. has picked up another multifamily property in Pentagon City, not far from where Amazon.com Inc. is settling into its second home. A Dweck affiliate paid $117 million July 9 for the Park at Pentagon Row, a 299-unit apartment building at 801 15th St. S.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A week after devastating flash flooding, the lights are coming back on for some affected businesses in Arlington.

SER Restaurant in Ballston, which was inundated by water coming through the ceiling during the Flash Flood Emergency, is planning to reopen at 5 p.m. today (Monday), co-owner Christiana Campos told ARLnow.

The reopening comes after the local community rallied to raise more than $10,000 for SER in a GoFundMe campaign. SER says the donations are being used to help fund needed repairs while the owners work through the insurance claim process.

“Thanks to our hard working staff, our construction crew who have been working around the clock to fix the damage and thanks to the humbling outpouring of support from the community, we are so thrilled to being opening today,” Campos told ARLnow. “The power of this community is truly incredible.”

In Westover, where floodwaters destroyed merchandise and knocked out power, the two hardest-hit businesses — Westover Market and Beer Garden, and Ayers Variety and Hardware — first reopened in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Over the weekend, Westover Market announced it was back on utility power and off generators.

“Finally! Regular hours going forward!” the store exclaimed on Facebook. “Limited fresh produce [and] meats have been delivered! Every day we’ll inch closer to 100%. Thanks so much for all the incredible support! We need it! And please send support and prayers to the other businesses affected by the storm!”

A GoFundMe campaign for the Westover merchants has raised more than $67,500.

Also in Westover, the weekly farmers market was held over the weekend, thanks to quick repairs to 18th Street N., which was damaged by the flooding. On Saturday, the director of the company that organizes the market wrote the following letter to Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, lauding the dedicated repair crews.

Mr. Schwartz —

I was notified late this afternoon that the emergency street repairs on 18th Street N. have been completed. Our nonprofit organization is very grateful for the County’s quick response to address the street damage caused by the torrential rain last Monday morning…

This section of the roadway serves on Sunday mornings as a key part of the Westover Farmers Market. We have been in contact with vendors all week regarding whether the Westover Farmers Market could take place, given the roadway damage caused by the storm. This evening I was able to send them an “all clear” message. So tomorrow morning’s market should run without a hitch. […]

Please send our thanks to the personnel in the Department of Environmental Services and to the contractors who assist them for a job well and quickly done. The neighbors who shop each week at this farmers market will benefit from their outstanding efforts this week.

Rob Swennes, Executive Director
Field to Table, Inc.

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(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Residents hit hard by floods across Arlington are worrying about how to pay the repair costs.

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz declared a state of emergency two days after Monday’s flash floods wrecked homes and destroyed businesses. The County Board now needs to approve the emergency declaration, which could pave the way for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid.

For several residents in Westover, flood waters reached several feet high in their homes, destroying wood floors and appliances as well as cars and finished basements. Residents are still totaling the cost of the damages, but the majority said their homeowner’s insurance isn’t covering it — and most do not have flood insurance.

‘It happened very fast’

When ARLnow visited the Westover neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, mud still caked the pavement and friends and families were carrying out furniture to the county’s waiting trash truck.

“It happened very fast,” said neighbor Melinda Root. “I looked at my door and it was like looking at a weird aquarium.”

Root said at around 9 a.m. Monday, brown water rushed into the first floor of her house after rising outside, pouring up from the floorboards and in from the doors.

The inundation lasted about an hour, filling the basement to the ceiling and rising almost three feet on the first floor where it destroyed the carpet, kitchen appliances, as well as photographs and clothing. Outside, the water rose several feet high and flooded the engine of her car.

“The first thing I thought of was my cat,” Root said of her 13-year old friendly feline Chloe.

Root’s husband John DeMarce was at work when the storm hit, and was able to get Dominion Energy to cut the power to the house. When he arrived back in Westover, the floods had damaged thousands of dollars worth of tools in his woodworking shop in the basement and contaminated the carpet throughout the first floor.

“I’ve thrown away hundreds of books and CDs,” said DeMarce. Since then, he’s been ripping up the carpet himself and worries that the floor is now a mold risk, too.

He and his wife said they were very grateful to friends who are giving them a place to stay and are trying to clean 14 loads of laundry for them to save some of their clothes.

“We’re all in these same boat,’ said Root. “But that’s kind of a weird thing to say about a flood.”

Across the street, Athena Burkett, her husband Kenny Puk, and their friends were carrying away all her furniture to the curb after the water rose two feet inside her house and filled her basement.

Silt caked the hardwood floors in the first floor, and a light smell of sewage still pervades on Wednesday afternoon in the home even with the windows open and several fans running for days.

“It so much better than it was,” she said.

Burkett says she tried to come back to house Monday morning when she heard about the flooding but couldn’t drive through the river that filled her street.

“I stood right there up on that hill and watched as it happened,” she said of the top of the street.

The currents were so strong they lifted her shed and moved it almost two feet into her neighbor’s yard, half-crushing a floating chair that Kenny Puk jokes is now “the wicked witch of the west Adirondack chair” or “Excalibur.” Her family’s car is also totaled. A group of friends set up a cleaning shop in the backyard to salvage some metal shelves from the house.

Now plastic lines the second floor staircase inside the house to where she’s stored the few pieces of furniture that survived. The plastic is held down with neat stacks of books that with waterlogged covers. Storm water ruined the rest of her furniture, most of her appliances — and her wedding album.

“Yeah. I’m kind of in shock,” said Burkett, who’s only owned the house for two years.

Like Root and DeMarce, Burkett also lost her HVAC system, hot water heater, washer and dryer, and car to the floods. Both sets of neighbors said their homes are uninhabitable right now.

And as for homeowners insurance? “We’re getting nothing,” Burkett said.

“There were produce boxes from Westover Market in peoples’ front yards,” said another neighbor, Nicole Bender. “The path of the river cut across several yards and broke through fences along the way.”

Bender hadn’t seen anyone form the county checking on the clean-up efforts until Wednesday morning. “I don’t think they realized the level of damage,” she said.

Carpet scraps and personal effects lined 14th Street N. in Westover — one of the hardest-hit areas of the county — and for Wayne Blankenship, that includes her 30-year collection of hundreds of signed vinyl records. He spread racks of records on bed slats in his front yard under the hot sun, but Blankenship isn’t sure they’re salvageable.

He’s also worried about the hardwood on the first floor, which is starting to buckle after flood waters rose 6 inches in the home and filled his finished basement in “thirty seconds.” The rise was so forceful it exploded an egress window in the basement, and ripped two basement doors in half.

The power stayed on even though the circuit breaker was underwater, and Blankenship says he’s grateful that he didn’t get electrocuted when wading through the water. He’s also thankful for friends who’ve given them a place to stay and helped rip out drywall in the basement.

“There is humanity,” he laughs. “It does exist.”

Blankenship bought pumps from Home Depot to help his neighbors clear out their own floodwater. Others banded together to buy wagons full of food for each other or loan a hand with ripping out drywall.

Blankenship has lived on the street for 23 years with his husband Maxwell Tourgersen, with whom he recently celebrated his 35 anniversary. Together the two recently spent $30,000 renovating their basement.

“We just got the house the way we wanted it!” Blankenship lamented.

He estimates it will cost at least that, plus $18,000 for a new water heater and furnace, to do it again. Upstairs, he thinks it will cost $26,000 just to repair the kitchen. Like Beckett, he didn’t have flood insurance and his homeowner’s insurance isn’t paying a dime.

“This is going to be all out of pocket,” he said.

‘Too Early to Tell’

The Arlington County Fire Department responded to at least 25 swift water rescue calls on Monday as commuters were trapped on roads turned to rivers. All told, the floods caused an estimated $3.5 million in damage to county-owned infrastructure alone. Private donations have also poured in for Westover businesses swamped with stormwater.

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