Alexandria, VA

Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne joined his neighbors in criticizing City Council’s plan to double the stormwater utility fee, and asked at last night’s meeting that the matter be deferred to give the community more time.

Lawhorne, who lives in Del Ray, said that his home flooded multiple times last year and is frustrated with what he called a lack of progress to solve the problem. A number of heavy rainstorms in 2020 resulted in dangerous flooding situations, revealing a besieged stormwater management system that left many homes damaged throughout the city. There were more than 500 requests for service through the City’s 311 system due to extreme rain events this year, according to a city memo.

“When the city imposed a stormwater utility fee in 2018, I thought it was a step in the right direction,” Lawhorne said. “Instead, this is what happened in 2019 only 12% of the capital expenditures went to addressing the street flooding, and only 28% and 2020. Most of it went to the mandated Clean Water Act initiatives. I’m all for the clean water, but I thought we would get a fair share of that pie, but we didn’t.”

City Council ended up passing a motion by member Amy Jackson 6-1 to reintroduce the city’s stormwater utility fee on Jan. 26, followed by a public hearing next month. Mayor Justin Wilson was the lone dissenting vote.

I do feel like this has been rushed through,” Jackson said.

Yon Lambert, the director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, worked with the newly formed Interdepartmental Flooding Management Task Force to create the plan over the last six weeks. The plan includes doubling the $140 annual fee for residents to generate $15 million per year on $284 million worth of projects that would not be completed until at least 2030.

“These are very very complicated infrastructure projects,” Lambert said.Some of them may require property acquisition. There are going to be situations where we’re going to have to be considering utility relocations. All of those things add up to some level of uncertainty for us as we move forward, but it is our desire to continue as we refine the design of the project, the scope of each project and continue to come back to you and talk to you more clearly about what the delivery will be.”

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman agreed with Lawhorne’s assessment.

“I really think there’s been overall a kind of genuine miscommunication around what we’ve been spending out money on, versus the expectations of the public,” Chapman said. “And maybe that just has not been followed and communicated out… The city has not necessarily prepared itself to try to catch up to the inland flooding.”

Slides from the city’s presentation are below.

Graphs via City of Alexandria

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Alexandria could face a rainy Christmas Eve, giving locals yet another reason to stay at home for the holidays.

Transportation and Environmental Services warned locals on Twitter to take the time to ensure downspouts flow away from homes and water can flow into drainage areas. The city has already faced several floods this year, and T&ES warned melting snow could create another.

According to the National Weather Service:

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH NOW IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH LATE THURSDAY NIGHT…

* ONE AND HALF TO TWO AND HALF INCHES OF RAIN ARE EXPECTED THURSDAY  AFTERNOON AND THURSDAY NIGHT. THIS IS EXPECTED TO RESULT IN FLASH FLOODING OF SMALL STREAMS AND CREEKS AND POSSIBLE RIVER FLOODING.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria will remain under a Flood Warning until 11 a.m. today (Nov. 12), and the National Weather Service is advising caution in flood-prone areas as Tropical Storm Eta peters out across the Atlantic Ocean.

The high temperature today will be 61 degrees, and there is a 90% chance of rain this afternoon, according to Weather.com.

Gale force winds are also expected this weekend.

According to NWS:

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, Tidal Potomac River, and adjacent counties in central Maryland and northern Virginia as well as the District of Columbia.

DAY ONE…Today and Tonight Flood Warnings remain in effect for parts of the Washington metro area through this morning.

DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN…Friday through Wednesday Gale conditions are possible over the waters Sunday night.

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The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Alexandria until Thursday night (October 29) as the remnants of Tropical Storm Zeta move through the region.

“Heavy rainfall from Zeta could lead to some flooding of small streams, creeks, and urban areas,” warned NWS. “Rain amounts of two- to-three inches are expected with locally higher amounts possible, especially in the metro areas.”

Alexandria was plagued by severe flooding after numerous rain events over the summer, prompting the City Council last month to ask for an update from staff on $750 million on stormwater management mitigation efforts.

According to NWS:

Scattered incidents of flooding due to heavy rain are possible. Clogged drains due to leaf debris may cause additional flooding concerns, especially in urban areas.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

  • Do not enter or cross flowing water or water of unknown depth.
  • Stay away or be swept away.
  • River banks and culverts can become unstable and unsafe.

A Flood Watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current forecasts. You should monitor later forecasts and be alert for possible flood warnings. Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop.

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Alexandria’s LaMonica Johnston says that the life of her infant son was put at risk when her home was flooded on July 8.

Johnston just put her son down in his Pack ‘N Play and was laying down on her couch when water rushed into her home, located near the Hooff’s Run Culvert, a large tunnel that has some of the worst stormwater management issues in the city and handles runoff from the Del Ray, Rosemont, Beverly Hills and Northridge neighborhoods.

“When I stood up we had more than three inches of water in our home covering my ankles,” Johnston told City Council on Tuesday. “In less than 10 more minutes there was two feet of water inside the first floor of our home, along with most other homes in the area.”

On Thursday, September 10, flooding was reported throughout the city in the latest of a string of summer weather events that shut down swaths of roadways, and flooded alleyways and homes. Just as with the storms on July 8 and July 23, city sent out an advisory warning residents of “indoor sewer backups, impassable roads, power outages, and other flood-related issues.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the public is demanding a public conversation on the topic, and on Tuesday Council asked for an update on the city’s storm sewer infrastructure.

“This is one of the most basic services we provide as a community,” Wilson said. “We have to step up to that challenge.”

City Manager Mark Jinks reported that the city has taken a “proactive, aggressive approach to flood management and sewer maintenance in its stormwater program,” according to a city memo. “However, with climate change and the evident increase in major intense rain events which have caused major flooding, the City will need to reexamine and accelerate its stormwater planning and project implementation.”

There have been more than 500 requests for service through the City’s 311 system due to extreme rain events this year, according to a city memo.

The City’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan includes $33 million is for a sanitary sewer asset renewal program. As such, the Four Mile Run and Commonwealth sewer sheds will be inspected early next year.

“Out of the 83 ‘problem areas’ in the City’s eight watersheds, the top two watersheds were Hooff’s Run and Four Mile Run, with 23 ‘problem areas’ each, according to the city. “More detailed planning and analysis will take place to assess the overall implementation feasibility (including construction) prior to full design of these large-scale capital projects.”

The memo states that the cleanup of the Hoof’s Run culvert will cost $2 million, and that the work will take six months.

“(A) tree contractor will be onsite within the next three weeks to remove additional brush and limb up trees with branches that currently overhang the culvert and could interfere with water flow,” notes the memo.

Regardless of citywide improvements, the city is asking residents to make home upgrades.

“This is an opportunity here where you can be thinking about how you can make your personal property more flood resilient,” said T&ES Director Yon Lambert. “Whether that’s considering flood insurance, whether that’s considering investments on your personal property, to make sure that your homes are better prepared to deal with climate change in the future.”

Johnston said that her son almost drowned in 2019 and that her family could have been electrocuted. She says that all of the water is coming from the culvert and that it is a matter of time before someone is killed.

“It’s literally three feet of water coming into our backyards, pushing into our property and there’s nothing we can do to stop it,” she said.

Council will continue the discussion on stormwater infrastructure at its next legislative meeting on October 6.

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It’s the end of a busy week in Alexandria!

Our top story was the Del Ray car crash on Mount Vernon Avenue, and there’s some good news to report. The driver, who crashed her car due to a medical emergency, was sent home without any injuries the following day.

The city also experienced flooding after Thursday’s rainstorms, prompting the City Council to get an oral report on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stormwater management improvements. As reported, there have been more than a half dozen flood events in Alexandria this summer.

Council also received a report on the establishment of a community police review board, and sent it back for some additions. Namely, Council asked staff to include an option that would give the review board independent investigative authority, an action that prompted a police union to call the idea of the review board “superfluous.” Incidentally, crime stories are among the top articles read every week on ALXnow.

This was also the first week of the historic 2020-2021 school year, and with classes starting virtually it will be an altogether different experience than years past.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Driver Suffers Life Threatening Injuries in Del Ray Car Crash
  2. UPDATED: Flooding Reported in Parts of City After Heavy Rain
  3. Planning Commission Approves Density Compromise Despite Outrage from Civic Associations
  4. Video: Protestors Perform ‘Die-In’ Outside Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf’s Alexandria Home
  5. Arrest Made After Shots Fired in Old Town
  6. Police Investigating Public Indecency Incidents in Del Ray
  7. Police: Three Alexandria ABC Stores Broken Into, High-End Liquor Stolen
  8. Council to Vote on Requiring Face Masks in Alexandria
  9. Just Listed in Alexandria
  10. Hundreds in ‘Trumptilla’ Boat Parade Sail Past Alexandria
  11. Alexandria Woman Uninjured in Tuesday Carjacking at Gunpoint in Potomac Yard

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria has experienced its fair share of flooding in recent days, and on Saturday City Council will receive an oral presentation by the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services on $750 million in water improvement projects.

On Thursday, September 10, flooding was reported throughout the city in the latest of a string of summer weather events that have shut down swaths of roadways, flooded alleyways and homes. The city sent out an advisory warning residents of “indoor sewer backups, impassable roads, power outages, and other flood-related issues.”

Nine city crews are inspecting and cleaning waterways, according to the city.

“Today’s rainfall was approximately 2.5 to 4 inches at a rate as high as 3 inches in 10 minutes,” the city said. “This was an intense, regional storm that caused widespread flooding throughout Alexandria, particularly in the eastern portion, and included storm sewer line surges and sanitary backups.”

A similar advisory was sent out after a July 23 storm, which dropped between two and three inches of rain in 30 minutes and led to flooding.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city is planning infrastructure improvement projects in its 10-year Capital Improvement Program.

“Today, Alexandria spends a significant amount of money on infrastructure designed to manage water,” Wilson wrote in his monthly newsletter. “In April, the City Council approved a $2.1 billion, ten-year Capital Improvement Program. Of that, over $150 million is to address stormwater and sanitary sewer infrastructure. Alexandria Renew Enterprises, the City’s sewer authority, plans another $593 million of capital investments over the next decade, primarily the RiverRenew project to remediate the Combined Sewer (sanitary and stormwater) system that serves Old Town.”

The city can currently handle a 10-year storm, but the July 8, 2019, and the July 23, 2020, storms were “more intense than this design standard, with the July 23 event about 30 times more intense,” according to the city. “Out of the 83 ‘problem areas’ in the City’s eight watersheds, the top two watersheds were Hooff’s Run and Four Mile Run, with 23 ‘problem areas’ each. More detailed planning and analysis will take place to assess the overall implementation feasibility (including construction) prior to full design of these large-scale capital projects.”

The mayor’s full message is below.

Read More

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Morning Notes

After Flooding, Councilman Says City Stormwater Management Needs Work — “Councilmember Chapman tells 7 On Your Side Thursday’s flooding means city leaders need to quickly consider wholesale changes in terms of storm management.” [WJLA]

City Extends Deadline on Personal Property Tax Payments — “To provide relief for our residents and businesses during the ongoing pandemic, the City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to extend the deadline for payment of the Personal Property Tax (Car Tax and Business). Payments are now due on December 15th.” [Twitter]

Casa Chirilagua Gets Grant to Develop Wifi-Friendly Outdoor Space — “AlexandriaVA.gov and Casa Chirilagua are working together to bridge the digital divide by building a safe and comfortable outdoor space with Wi-Fi for local students.” [Facebook]

Beyer Says Trump Watches Too Much TV — “The President says he is watching many hours of television a day as the country continues to reel amid its worst and deadliest crisis in most Americans’ lifetimes.” [Twitter]

City Wins National Technology Award for Remote 911 Call-Taking — “The annual PTI Solutions Awards recognize PTI member cities and counties that have implemented or updated innovative technology solutions within the past 15 months that positively affected local government performance and service to the public.” [CompTIA]

ALIVE! Free Food Distribution on Saturday — “ALIVE! Truck-to-Trunk will distribute food at two drive-through sites on Saturday, September 12 from 8:30 am – 10:30 am at the parking lots of Cora Kelly (3600 Commonwealth Ave) and John Adams (5651 Rayburn Ave) Elementary Schools. This distribution includes bags of shelf stable groceries, fresh produce, and eggs, while supplies last. People are encouraged to drive through. Walks-ups should maintain 6 feet social distance, wear a face mask, and bring carts or reusable bags to carry food home. “[Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed during the day. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 82F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, partly cloudy. Low near 65F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Spa Coordinator — “This experience includes answering phones, scheduling spa services, greeting all customers, assisting with inquiries, and processing point of sale transactions for all products, always exceeding expectations.” [Indeed]

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Flooding has been reported around Alexandria after a period of very heavy rain.

“Units and the water rescue team responded to multiple calls for water rescues in the Del Ray and Park Fairfax areas of Alexandria,” the local Alexandria firefighters union said on Twitter, shortly before 4 p.m.

Earlier this afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for the city until 4:30 p.m.

“Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads,” notes the NWS announcement. “Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”

Photos and videos posted to social media showed high water in several parts of the city.

Unfortunately we have again experienced another incredibly intense rain event in the City which far exceeds the design…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Thursday, September 10, 2020

https://twitter.com/patpend/status/1304114130023075841

According to NWS:

Showers and thunderstorms will produce heavy rain across the area, especially near and along the Interstate 95 corridor.

Rainfall amounts will average one to three inches, with locally higher amounts possible. Heavy rainfall may result in rapid rises of water in small creeks and streams, as well as the potential for flash flooding in urban and poor drainage areas.

Some locations that may experience flash flooding include… Arlington… Alexandria… Clinton… College Park… Fort Washington… Greenbelt… Langley Park… Beltsville… Fort Hunt… Groveton… Huntington… Coral Hills… Bladensburg… Fort Belvoir… National Harbor… Gallaudet University… Nationals Park… RFK Stadium… Howard University… Fort Totten.

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(Updated 4:15 p.m.) After a week with two flood warnings, the city is reminding residents that a program is available for the city to cover half the costs for sewer backflow prevention — a source of much of the city’s flooding problems.

The Backflow Preventer (BFP) Assistance Program reimburses homeowners for up to 50% of the costs of installing a BFP device by a licensed plumbing contractor for up to a maximum of $2,000.

When a rainfall overloads the sewer system, water can back up into basements and flood properties, as many residents in the area discovered during intense floods last year and again late last month. BFPs keep that water from backing up along the pipes back into the property.

“An automatic BFP can be equipped with a battery-operated light (much like a smoke alarm) to tell the resident when it is open or closed,” the city said on the BFP website. “To protect, the BFP must be closed during the sewage overload period. This period varies depending on the size of storm, but generally lasts from 2 to 6 hours.”

Residents can apply for assistance online. According to the city, for a property to qualify:

  • Property must have a basement (finished or unfinished)
  • Plumber licensed by the State and City must install the BFP device
  • City must be granted access to verify installation
  • Owner/plumber must have obtained an installation permit and an approved final inspection
  • Owner and installer must certify to payment in full
  • Owner must accept responsibility and release City

Image via City of Alexandria

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