Alexandria, VA

The weather is expected to make a dramatic turn over the next few hours.

After some early preparation last night by the Alexandria Fire Department and other city agencies, yesterday’s Flood Watch has been upgraded by the National Weather Service to a Flood Warning for Alexandria and surrounding localities.

Today’s bad weather is the result of Isaias, which made landfall in North Carolina last night as a Category 1 hurricane and is moving north. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.

A Flood Warning means flooding is imminent or occurring. For those driving, the National Weather Service said to turn around and not to risk flooded roads as most flood deaths occur in vehicles.

More from NWS:

BULLETIN – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
701 AM EDT TUE AUG 4 2020

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* FLOOD WARNING FOR…
THE CITY OF FAIRFAX IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
ARLINGTON COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
THE CITY OF FALLS CHURCH IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
EASTERN FAIRFAX COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…
THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA…

* UNTIL 100 PM EDT.

* AT 700 AM EDT, DOPPLER RADAR AND AUTOMATED RAIN GAUGES INDICATED THAT HEAVY RAIN WAS FALLING OVER THE AREA. THE HEAVY RAIN WILL CAUSE FLOODING. UP TO ONE INCH OF RAIN HAS ALREADY FALLEN.ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF SEVERAL INCHES ARE POSSIBLE, AND FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS COULD BE REQUIRED LATER TODAY. FOR NOW, THOUGH, FLOODING WILL BE RELATIVELY SLOW TO DEVELOP.

* SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE… ARLINGTON, ALEXANDRIA, RESTON, ANNANDALE, SPRINGFIELD, FORT WASHINGTON, FAIRFAX, FORT HUNT, VIENNA, GROVETON, FALLS CHURCH, HUNTINGTON, MANTUA, FORT BELVOIR, PIMMIT HILLS, NATIONAL HARBOR, MCLEAN, REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT, ROSSLYN AND CRYSTAL CITY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS. MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN VEHICLES.

A FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING. ALL INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD TAKE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS IMMEDIATELY.

Image via National Weather Service

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The number of new unemployment claims in Alexandria has reached levels not seen since early May, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The latest numbers show that the number of new unemployment claims — those making their initial unemployment filings — has gone up to 932 for the week of July 25. Between July 18 and July 25, claims increased by 201.

The number of new initial filings has been steadily increasing since June 20, when it hit a low of 386 new claims.

While initial claims have gone up, the number of continued claims have held steady or gone down. For the week of July 25, there were 5,904 new claims, the lowest claims have been since May 2.

The third phase of reopening at the beginning of July appears to have done little to impact unemployment in the area. Alexandria’s numbers are also part of a statewide surge in new unemployment claims.

“The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) announced that the total number of initial claims filed from the beginning of the pandemic in Mid-March of 2020 through the July 25, 2020 filing week was more than double the average number filed during the last three economic recessions,” VEC said. “For the filing week ending July 25, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 42,966. The latest claims figure was an increase of 5,020 claimants from the previous week and rose to its highest level since May.”

Graphs by Vernon Miles

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Alexandria City Public Schools announced earlier today that staff is recommending schools reopen for online-only classes in September.

The school system outlined some of the immense challenges it faced with maintaining social distancing with in-person classes in the falls, like a requirement that school buses operate at 1/4 capacity. Students expressed concerns that online classes could face similar problems as they did in the spring, but ACPS promised online classes would be more smoothly handled in the fall.

The move follows similar decisions from both Arlington County and Fairfax County, though there has been some pushback by figures like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The Alexandria City School Board will conduct virtual public hearings on the matter on August 6 and 7. The board will vote on the measure on August 7 before it goes to the Virginia Department of Education on August 14. The school year is scheduled to start Sept. 8.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Developer Monday Properties announced last week that tech company Johnson Controls will be moving into the company’s Cameron Run office park.

Johnson Controls is an Ireland-based company that produces fire, HVAC and security equipment. The building is currently home to Tyco Integrated Security — which Johnson Controls merged with in 2018 — Michael Baker and Savi Technology.

The Cameron Run office is a 145,244 square foot building nestled in the Eisenhower Corridor at 3601 Eisenhower Avenue. Monday Properties said on Instagram that Johnson Controls will occupy 28,000 square feet of the building.

It could prove a prudent move, with extensive future redevelopment planned for the area along Eisenhower Avenue around Cameron Run.

Photo via Google Maps
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Over a week after all of its neighboring school districts had made similar announcements, Alexandria City Public Schools announced this morning that the school year will start entirely virtual.

The program will include a structured bell schedule, live daily instruction with teachers, and some one-on-one or small group tutoring. Students in pre-K through first-grade classes will also receive age-appropriate technology, ACPS said, while students in grades 2-12 will receive Chromebooks.

“Following months of research, community engagement and strategizing, Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. is proposing a feasible model that brings the classroom into the home and aligns with the 2025 Strategic Plan, which places equity at the center of every decision,” ACPS said in a newsletter. “Our most feasible model, Virtual PLUS+, is a robust online learning experience that will engage students 100% virtually and provide additional supports for students, staff and families.”

“After much careful consideration of the facts as they stand today, we feel confident that Virtual PLUS+ will provide a quality educational experience worthy of our children while keeping the health and safety of our students, staff and families in mind,” Hutchings said. “This model places equitable access for all at the heart and ensures that we can build a framework that addresses the needs of specific groups of students to ensure they stay on course this fall.”

ACPS said it will also work with community partners to offer childcare options who families who need it, with more details to come. The program will also include a continuation of earlier meal distribution programs.

“We are working collaboratively with our community partners to provide more specific details about these child care options and will share additional information over the next couple of weeks,” ACPS said.

The Alexandria City School Board will hold two online public hearings on the ACPS proposed feasible model for the…

Posted by Alexandria City Public Schools on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Whether ACPS can move toward in-person schools will be reevaluated every nine weeks, ACPS said.

The school system drew some criticism over the last week for a perceived slowness on its handling of whether schools would be online-only or a hybrid in-person model.

The Alexandria City School Board will conduct virtual public hearings on the matter on August 6 and 7. The board will vote on the measure on August 7 before it goes to the Virginia Department of Education on August 14. The school year is scheduled to start Sept. 8.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) announced a full list of recipients for the program’s ALX B2B program — grant funding aimed at helping local businesses hold out through a sluggish recovery — and is moving forward on another phase of the program.

With the first batch of the funding being distributed to Alexandria businesses, AEDP said the process is starting for figuring out how to divvy up the next batch of state funding between the city’s needs.

“The city received a communication yesterday from the Governor that they will be allocating second half of local funding for CARES dollars,” said Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of AEDP. “[The City] is going to receive the exact same amount as the first time. That was an important piece we were waiting on. We needed to make sure there was funding. Now that that news has come, we’re working with the City Manager to determine how that money will be allocated.”

The first allocation was divided between funding for grants alongside funding for rental assistance and other needs. Landrum said City Manager Mark Jinks will need to work with the City Council to see if, and how, the percentages of funding allocation need to change this time around.

Meanwhile, Landrum said AEDP has learned a lot from the first round of grant requests.

“We learned a lot about how businesses are structured in the city,” Landrum said. “The proposal for round two would expand eligibility.”

Requirements would change to provide a way for businesses who opened within the last year to prove their financial stability. Landrum also said various types of daycares and contractor-based programs that were excluded the first time around will be included, like barber shops whose employees did not qualify for the first round of the program.

“We recognize that in order for all of us to get back to business, daycare has to be a foundation that’s up and running,” Landrum said. “We had around five to ten daycares that received grants in round 1, but we wanted to reach out to non-profits and providers who are home-based so we can get as many daycares as we can.”

AEDP approved 303 small business grants of the roughly 335 that applied. Those who were deemed ineligible the first time around because of circumstances that will change the second time can work with AEDP to “resurrect” their initial application. Read More

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Mr. Patterson may be cute, but the staff at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria where he is currently awaiting say that prospective owners should make no mistake — he is a true gentleman.

“Mr. Patterson may be a bit leonine, but he’s actually just a lionhead rabbit (though he’s just as proud of his majestic mane as any big cat would be),” said Gina Hardter, a spokesperson for the AWLA. “This 2-year-old gentleman’s favorite spots are a well-filled hay bin or a snuggly enclosure with lots of blankets.”

Like most rabbits, Mr. Patterson is highly intelligent and enjoys puzzles or challenges to help stimulate his brain.

“Chew toys and places to dig will help you win Mr. Patterson’s heart,” Hardter said.

While all rabbits require some grooming, Hardter said Mr. Patterson’s intense mane requires some special preening.

“As anyone with a fantastic coiffure (or coif-fur) will tell you, you will need to dedicate some time to brushing Mr. Patterson,” Hardter said. “Make sure to find the right type of brush to keep him detangled, because lionheads far prefer brushing and the occasional spot-clean to a bath!”

Anyone interested in learning more about caring for a lionhead rabbit, or to meet Mr. Patterson for potential adoption, is encouraged to schedule an appointment with the AWLA.

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Alexandria City Public Schools promised a group of students inquiring about the upcoming school year that the new format will be smoother and more accessible than the spring and summer classes, whether that’s online-only or a hybrid model.

In a virtual Q&A session, school administrators spoke to elementary, middle and high schoolers about what they can expect in the upcoming school year.

Many of the questions focused around the day to day, like the inclusion of recess in the schedule or how lunches will operate. Terri Mozingo, chief academic officer for ACPS, said that the

“If we go online, we would do something like dance or yoga, so you can still engage in physical online activity,” Mozingo said.

Mozingo also emphasized in the Q&A session that the schools are working to develop some way of setting students up students to be able to converse in small groups easily.

For the school system, however, there are still lingering questions about the logistics of how any potential in-person school system can operate. In an in-person school scenario, students would dine without masks in their cafeterias, but Superintendent Gregory Hutchings noted that some school facilities were already crowded before the six-feet of separation requirement.

The answer to this could be bringing students to school on a rotating schedule. Under this scenario, administrators said Monday would be a workday form home, while one group of students would go to in-person school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays while the others do asynchronous learning at home. The groups would switch off on Thursday and Friday.

“It is not possible for everyone to be back at one time,” Hutchings said. “Many of our schools a little overcrowded already, would not be in our best interest to bring everybody back at once.”

This reduces, but would not eliminate, the challenge of social distancing in the school. School buses, for instance, will require one student per seat with students in every other row, reducing buses to one-quarter of their usual capacity.

ACPS staff told ALXnow they are keenly aware of those problems.

“The logistics around transportation, the size of our classrooms and movement within our facilities are indeed challenging,” said Helen Lloyd, the ACPS director of communications. “These are all areas being considered by the Cross-functional Planning Teams that are working right now on drawing up plans for the fall.”

Some of the students who spoke with administrators had their own concerns about the online side of classes, citing challenges in the spring and summer classes and limited options to speak with teachers or other students. Mozingo said more time for teachers to be available to students is being worked into the schedules.

“What you might have experienced this summer will be very different in terms of 4.0 and that instructional plan,” Mozingo said.

On Friday, Lloyd said ACPS will announce whether there will be any in-person classes in the fall.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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(Updated July 31) The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a homicide in the West End.

Police responded to a call regarding shots fired at S. Greenmount Drive around 6:20 a.m., according to a press release. At the scene, officers found the body of a woman with gunshot wounds on her upper body.

The victim was identified as Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez.

“The case is under investigation, and no arrests have been made,” police said. “Anyone with information regarding this incident should contact Detective Gill of the Criminal Investigation Division at 202.420.6290.”

S. Greenmount Drive is a small residential street in the Town Square at Marks Center Apartments community. Assistant Chief of Police Don Hayes said the victim was found outside of one of the residential units.

This is Alexandria’s first homicide of 2020, but not the first shooting. Police have not released the identity of the victim.

Image via Google Maps

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A local addition to the National Defense Authorization Act — a $740 billion bill approved through the House and Senate and headed to the White House — would require the Pentagon to establish a helicopter noise abatement group for the region.

Helicopter noise has long been a local complaint in Alexandria, perhaps second only in overhead noise controversy to sound coming from National Airport.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D) would also require the Pentagon to establish a noise inquiry website based on the DCA’s complaint website.

“Since I took office, complaints about aircraft noise have been one of the most consistent sources of calls to my office,” Beyer said in an email. “We get calls about airplanes on approach and departure to and from DCA, and increasingly about military helicopters across the region, many of which fly in and out of Fort Belvoir. I had a town hall on the issue a few years ago in Fairlington, which has been particularly affected, and it was clear that people wanted ways to track and report noise complaints, and to have a forum for ongoing discussion about ways to mitigate that noise which would include input from the local community.”

While the bill has been approved by both chambers, a threatened veto over changing the names of bases named after Confederate leaders could still keep the helicopter noise solution from moving forward.

“With its adoption in the House we are now on track to get this enacted,” Beyer said. “Given the work that MWAA has already done in some of these areas it just makes sense for the Pentagon to look at what they have done, take what worked well, and make changes in areas that they could improve.”

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Sonderman

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The update on the Transportation Master Plan Pedestrian and Bicycle Chapter wasn’t planned to coincide with a sudden uptick in bicycle ridership and walking around the city, but it could help explain why many Alexandrians exploring their local pedestrian/bike infrastructure might find it different than they remember.

An update prepared for the canceled June 17 Transportation Commission meeting shined some light on the progress the city has made since it a chapter specifically about that infrastructure was added to the city’s Transportation Master Plan in 2016. The primary goals the city laid out at the time were to improve safety, engineering, encouragement and education of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Alexandria. The move corresponded with a push towards Vision Zero — a project that aims to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028.

Data shows that crashes and fatalities for pedestrians have generally gone down over the last four years — though the numbers are low enough that it’s impossible to accurately extrapolate trends. Crashes have gone down from 69 in 2016 to 60 in 2019. Fatalities have gone from 4 to 2 in that same timeframe, though not with consistent year-after-year declines. The number of serious injuries has gone up from 6 to 8.

The city has added substantial new infrastructure, though.

“There has been a 43% increase in intersections with pedestrian countdown signals at crosswalks from 68% in 2016 to 97% as of the end of May 2020,” city staff said in the report. “Over 9,000 total linear feet of new sidewalk has been installed and over 1,600 linear feet of sidewalk have been upgraded with widened sidewalks or adjustments to provide improved access for wheelchair users since FY16. Approximately 1,300 linear feet of temporary, protected shared use path space was installed to fill the sidewalk gap on the #9 highest priority sidewalk on Seminary.”

The update also included information about progress made for off-street trails, though noting that flood damage has set back some of the city’s progress on that front.

“One additional off-street trail (a segment of Four Mile Run Trail leading to a future bridge) has been installed since plan adoption, bringing the citywide total to approximately 21 miles,” staff said in the report. “A new 150-foot pedestrian bridge was completed on the Four Mile Run trail that connects the Four Mile Run Wetlands Trail to the larger Four Mile Run trail network. The City suffered a setback with the July 2019 storms that severely damaged the trail and recent completion of a bridge connecting Holmes Run Parkway to N. Ripley Street as well as other bridges along Holmes Run. A 2021 budget request is made for the repair work.”

The report also notes the progress made for new bicycle infrastructure.

“Since 2016, 11.9 miles of shared lane mile markings and 11.4 miles of bike lane miles were installed making for a total of approximately 39 lane miles of on-street bicycle facilities,” staff said. “This is a nearly 46% increase in facilities since 2018.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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After a launch delayed by the pandemic, mobility company Helbiz has started putting scooters onto Arlington and Alexandria streets.

The company announced yesterday that it would immediately move forward with bringing 100 new scooters to locations in Arlington and 200 to Alexandria. Like other scooter companies, like Lime or Bird, Helbiz scooters are unlocked by scanning a code in an app, riding with cost determined by distance, and parking.

“The vehicles will also be able to operate between these cities’ for riders’ convenience,” the company said in a press release. “These fleets follow the company’s successful launch of e-bikes in neighboring Washington, DC, highlighting Helbiz’s continued growth in the area and its commitment to offering eco-friendly micro-mobility solutions to the community.”

Helbiz — an Italian-American transportation company founded in 2015 — also brought scooters and e-bikes to Washington D.C., according to DCist. While Helbiz was approved for e-bike use in Alexandria, the company said those plans have hit a snag.

“We plan to launch a fleet of 200 e-bikes in Alexandria in Q4 of this year,” said Gian Luca Spriano, Director of International Business Development. “Unfortunately, our bike manufacturer experienced delays due to COVID, and we’re working closely with them to get our bikes in Alexandria as soon as possible.”

The distribution and access to scooters have faced some concerns at the Alexandria City Council that the programs disproportionately favored wealthy, predominately white Old Town at the exclusion of lower-income communities. In response, Helbiz said in a press release that it has launched the Helbiz Access Program to provide discounts on rides for low-income residents.

Photo via Helbiz/Facebook

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