Newsletter

This week saw possibly the most contentious meeting between the City Council and School Board in years for a debate over School Resources Officers that ultimately culminated in the Council voting to temporarily restore the program. The reversal has been advocated by school officials and some parents, but was lamented by advocacy group Tenants and Workers United that saw it as a step-backward for racial justice.

The following day, ACPS was also hit with lockdowns at Alexandria City High School’s King Street and Minnie Howard campuses and Hammond Middle School, though police later said initial calls about a school shooting were unfounded. At the same time, a gas leak near Potomac Yard led to two homes being evacuated and the temporary closure of Richmond Highway.

Here are this week’s most-read stories.

Top Stories

  1. Man injured and juvenile arrested after fight at the McDonald’s in Bradlee Shopping Center
  2. In dramatic reversal, City Council brings back school resource officers to Alexandria City Public Schools
  3. Planned bus rapid transit route from Alexandria to Tysons rolls ahead
  4. Alexandria City High School on lockdown after anonymous threat
  5. Police: Call about shooting at Hammond Middle School unfounded
  6. City rethinks waterfront flood mitigation plans after seeing the price tag
  7. Tenants and Workers United upset by City Council restoration of school resource officer program
  8. City Council to consider swapping parking for ‘parklets’
  9. Man attempts to steal $1,850 in merchandise from Restaurant Depot with discarded receipt
  10. Project crowdsourcing Alexandria history aims to go nationwide next year
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The foot of King Street flooded with water is a dramatic visual that comes up nearly every time there’s flooding in Alexandria, but the city is facing some sticker shock for a long-planned fix.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission Flood Mitigation Committee this week, city staff presented a variety of plans that could help combat flooding on the waterfront, from a pair of cost-conscious options to options that put focus more on results than staying within budget.

City staff said that the three main sources of flooding on the waterfront are:

  • Stormwater overwhelming the stormwater-sewer system
  • The river backing into the sewer system
  • The river “overtopping” and coming into Old Town streets and parks

Matthew Landes, division chief for project implementation, said the last one — overtopping — happens less frequently than the other two. Landes presented two cost-based options for combatting flooding on the Waterfront within the capital improvement plan’s $100 million allocation for Waterfront improvement, but neither will fully fix overtopping from the river.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 1 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The first, which covers the Waterfront from Duke Street up to the northern end of Founder’s Park, mitigates rainfall flooding but makes no shoreline or park improvements. A combination of pumping stations, use of underground space at Founder’s Park, and more would help retain and remove floodwaters in the area. The project is estimated to cost $90 million, but staff said that could range from $63-136 million.

“On this project, we are prioritizing rainfall-runoff mitigation,” said project engineer Sara Igielski. “What that means we have to make sacrifices in terms of the other flooding that we have seen but we have identified rainfall-runoff and that backflow as being critical to addressing the funding we see most frequently.”

Landes said the project would meet two of the three objectives for managing water, but would do little to nothing for situations where the river rises and floods Old Town.

Waterfront flood mitigation cost-based option 2 (photo via City of Alexandria)

The other cost-based option presented would be hyper-focused on the area between Duke Street and King Street and would defer improvements north of King Street. The project would add a new bulkhead on the promenade along with a pumping station and underground retention at King Street park, but still would not hit all three of the flooding issues for Old Town and staff expressed concerns that flooding upstream could still lead to flooding in this area.

“This does not meet our flood mitigation goals,” Landes said. “It does not remove all of the floodings as we would want it to when we invest $100 million.”

But while staff also expanded on some more comprehensive and more expensive options with estimated costs of $170 million and $215 million, Committee members balked at proposed budgets.

“Everything you’re doing is more than we can afford,” Committee member Nathan Macek said. “That’s one-and-a-half elementary schools. I can’t imagine spending that kind of money to fix the flooding in this part of the city.”

Macek also noted that the Waterfront Small Area Plan approved in 2012 was intended as a parks and recreation plan, not an infrastructure plan, and the plans put forward by staff would allocate the full budget for the plan into flooding infrastructure. Macek said a more realistic approach might be building-specific enhancements to safeguard against damage from flooding.

“Everything we’re talking about here, to me, as much as I love the Waterfront, I couldn’t fathom the city spending this kind of money on this area,” Macek said. “Look at the flood problems we have here in Rosemont and other parts of the city with [$200-$300 million improvements] that will affect more homes and properties. [The] improvements and alternatives need to be paired back to be as minimal as possible while still providing amenities on the parkland.”

Trae Lamond, Committee member and owner Waterfront restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street), said the first cost-based option was more than ample in its flood protection, but that the city can’t afford to defer the issue much longer.

“I would hate for us not to do anything and then have something terrible happen,” Lamond said.

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Alexandria is getting some state help to boost its stormwater resilience, though the city is at the lower end of the $7.8 million distributed in grants.

Governor Ralph Northam announced today that the $7.8 million would be going to 19 local projects across the Commonwealth that address flooding, sea-level rise, and extreme weather.

Alexandria, which has faced frequent and devastating flooding, will receive $115,200 in state funding to help “resilient stormwater capacity and [the] green streets project.” The grants are the first allocated through the state’s Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund.

“Virginians have experienced the devastating effects of flooding over and over again,” said Northam in a press release. “Without strong investments in resiliency, we will continue to see more of the same. The Community Flood Preparedness Fund grants are so important because they will jumpstart projects in more than a dozen localities, including some that have been impacted by recent disasters.”

The city is currently budgeted to spend $266.6 million in stormwater capacity projects over the next ten years, according to the FY 2022 budget (page 12). The city has also doubled its stormwater utility fee to help upgrade the city’s stormwater capacity.

The Eastern Branch of Elizabeth River Wetland and Floodplain Restoration took the lion’s share of the state funding — $3 million. Other projects in Richmond and Norfolk each won around $1 million in funding.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria appoints flood mitigation manager — “Effective Oct. 11, Daniel Medina will serve as the Flood Action Alexandria program manager. The new position will include coordination across city departments on the flood mitigation program and manage the city’s stormwater capital project lineup.” [Patch]

McAuliffe, Youngkin unload in feisty final Virginia debate — “Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin bickered their way through the second and final debate of Virginia’s competitive governor’s race on Tuesday, trading attacks and accusations from the start of the hourlong meeting.” [Politico]

Taste of Old Town North is Thursday — “Don’t miss The Taste of Old Town North, September 30 at 4p.m. Great food, music and more at this free event happening at Montgomery Park.” [Twitter]

Here’s a list of great walks in Alexandria — “Known for its walkable lifestyle, Alexandria is a city best experienced on foot.” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny. High 73F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… A mostly clear sky. Low 52F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pet sitter and dog walker — “Alexandria Pet Care seeks an experienced career pet expert to work with animals in their homes.” [Indeed]

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(Updated at 5:50 p.m.) An afternoon storm has brought flooding and shut down some roads and services in Alexandria.

City bus service DASH announced via Twitter that all bus service was briefly suspended due to severe weather conditions, but service resumed roughly 30 minutes later.

Additionally, the King Street Metro station’s northern entrance has been closed due to flooding, though as of 5:40 p.m. the southern entrance remains open.

The warning comes after the city has had repeated issues with flooding recently and some residents shared footage of flooding in Alexandria neighborhoods near the Braddock Metro station.

Matthew Cappucci, a reporter with Fox 5, reported extensive flooding at the Braddock Road Metro station.

According to scanner traffic, East Braddock Road has been closed at North West Street due to high water and vehicles are stranded. Alexandria Police senior public information officer Amanda Paga said there have been no major road closure reported as of 5:50 p.m. but that sections of roads are likely impassable due to high waters.

More from the National Weather Service:

244 PM EDT THU SEP 16 2021

…FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM EDT THIS EVENING…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF DC, MARYLAND AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA, INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING AREAS: IN DC, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. IN MARYLAND, ANNE ARUNDEL, CARROLL, CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST HOWARD, CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST MONTGOMERY, FREDERICK MD, NORTHERN BALTIMORE, NORTHWEST HARFORD, NORTHWEST HOWARD, NORTHWEST MONTGOMERY, PRINCE GEORGES, SOUTHEAST HARFORD AND SOUTHERN BALTIMORE. IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA, ARLINGTON/FALLS CHURCH/ALEXANDRIA, EASTERN LOUDOUN, FAIRFAX, PRINCE WILLIAM/MANASSAS/MANASSAS PARK AND WESTERN LOUDOUN.

* UNTIL 9 PM EDT THIS EVENING.

* SLOW MOVING SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WILL PRODUCE VERY HEAVY RAINFALL, POTENTIALLY LEADING TO AREAS OF FLASH FLOODING. RAINFALL RATES MAY REACH TWO INCHES PER HOUR.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED.

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Alexandria was spared from significant flooding this week after remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the East Coast. The only flooding found was on lower King Street in Old Town, where businesses laid sandbags at windows and doorways.

“We’re open inside, but if you want to eat you’re probably going to have to come barefoot,” a hostess at Mai Thai told ALXnow on Wednesday.

Our top story this week was, for the second week in a row, on the recent brawl inside Alexandria City High School.

It’s a three-day weekend, and on Sunday the annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style will bring crowds to marvel at classic and beautiful rides along King Street. Monday is Labor Day, and the city will operate on a holiday schedule.

In this week’s poll we asked how satisfied readers are with Alexandria City Public Schools since reopening on August 24. A majority (31%) reported being extremely unsatisfied with the school system, while 29% said ACPS has done a good job, 25% are extremely satisfied and 14% are unhappy overall.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  2. 13-year-old hit by car while walking home from school in Del Ray
  3. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  4. Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
  5. No injuries or arrests after shots fired on Duke Street
  6. ACPS Superintendent Hutchings asks community to hit the brakes on email campaigns
  7. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  8. Alexandria sees cases rise in August and warns of COVID-19 in schools
  9. Alexandria man convicted for possessing child porn and violating parole
  10. Historic Black cemetery under threat of being washed away in Old Town
  11. Man swallows two bags of drugs and runs from police in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria is under a Flash Flood Watch until Thursday morning, as the city has given away sandbags and cleared storm drains in preparation of remnants of Hurricane Ida.

The Flash Flood Watch is in effect until 8 am. Thursday.

Ida, which is now a tropical depression, will slowly weaken as it moves northeastward.

“However, IDA will continue to produce heavy rain along the path into Thursday,” the National Weather Service advised. “Therefore, the WPC (Weather Prediction Center) has issued a High Risk of excessive rainfall from the northern Mid-Atlantic/Northeast through Thursday morning. The associated heavy rain will create widespread areas of flash flooding.”

The City handed out sandbags to residents yesterday in anticipation of the storm.

According to NWS:

Additional thunderstorms with heavy rainfall are expected across the area this afternoon and evening. Rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are expected, with localized amounts up to 6 inches possible.

This amount of heavy rainfall will not only result in the potential for considerable flash flooding of creeks, small streams, and urban areas, but also the potential for river flooding on the main stem rivers.

Alexandria experienced significant flooding just two weeks ago.

The Group DrainALX has also tweeted its frustration over the city’s stormwater management. On Tuesday, it posted a quote from a resident who says that there is no way to plan for big storms.

 


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Morning Notes

Alexandria could receive refugees from Afghanistan — “Currently, it is believed that many of the Afghan evacuees will settle in the U.S., including Alexandria, under Special Immigrant Visas, which are given to Iraqi or Afghan nationals who have been employed by the U.S. Armed Forces as a translator or interpreter, or has been employed by a contractor of the United States government overseas. SIVs are eligible for the same resettlement benefits as refugees for up to eight months after arrival. They arrive with legal permanent resident status and can apply for citizenship after five years.” [City of Alexandria]

Bishop Ireton grad chosen for Visa Black Scholar and Jobs Program — “Luke Pilot, an Alexandria resident who attended Bishop Ireton High School, is one of the 50 students selected for the program. Pilot is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” [Patch]

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra changes performance selection next month — “The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) had planned to open the 2021-2022 Season by performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Alexandria Choral Society. It was announced earlier today that because of COVID-19 concerns, they have opted to perform the Fifth Symphony instead.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Thunderstorms likely (during the day). Potential for severe thunderstorms. High 81F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near an inch… Becoming partly cloudy after some evening rain. Potential for flooding rains. Low 62F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bank teller in West End — “At Wells Fargo, we are looking for talented people who will put our customers at the center of everything we do. We are seeking candidates who embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in a workplace where everyone feels valued and inspired.” [Indeed]

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Michael Johnson’s grandfather, Albert, died two months before Michael was born and is buried somewhere in Douglass Memorial Cemetery. Where he is exactly buried is unclear, since Albert’s gravestone and several others have been lost as recent flooding threatens to wash away a historic Black cemetery.

The cemetery has been a burial site for Black Alexandrians since 1827 and was named after Frederick Douglass after the abolitionist leader died in 1895. Records who that around 2,000 people were buried in the cemetery until burials stopped in 1974.

The cemetery fell into disrepair for a few years and the number of grave markers for those buried in the cemetery is already low. A city report says the number of well-defined graves is close to 10%, and the lack of intact vaults or caskets reflects the socioeconomic limitations of the families. It’s a situation Johnson said has been exacerbated by recent flooding, where some of the few remaining markers are disappearing.

“It’s been flooding for years,” Johnson said. “When I was a kid, we never heard of it flooding, and then the apartment building was built… Now it’s getting real bad.”

Among those missing are Albert Johnson, his brother Wallace “Jack” Johnson, and Michael Johnson’s uncle Alfred.

“I can only find three of the six headstone markers in my family there,” Johnson said. “Where are the rest of the people’s who are buried there?”

The city has faced frequent flooding over the last few years, including floods earlier this month. After some of the more recent flooding, Johnson said more of the grave markers have gone missing; potentially buried in dirt elsewhere in the cemetery.

There are some complications when it comes to fixing the problem, though.

A city archeologist noted in an email that a stream channel historically ran through the site where there are water problems today. Though the grass is cut and the trash is picked up by the city and the Office of Historic Alexandria, the archeologist also said the cemetery is technically abandoned and not owned by the city, which makes it difficult for the city to implement repairs.

Johnson said something should be done to preserve the memory and peace of those buried in Douglass Cemetery.

“It’s gotten worse,” Johnson said. “Cemeteries should be a sanctuary for where we respect and give the upmost attention to it.”

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(Updated 4:45 p.m.) The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning for Alexandria and the surrounding area. The warning comes after a Flash Flood Watch was put in effect until 11 p.m.

Two-to-four inches of rainfall an hour is expected, according to NWS.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was also issued earlier in the day, although there was little to no rainfall in Alexandria. It remains in effect until 4:15 p.m.

According to NWS:

Numerous showers and thunderstorms are expected this afternoon and evening. Average rainfall amounts are expected to be between one half to one inch. However, thunderstorms will be capable of producing very heavy rainfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour, causing localized amounts of 2 to 4 inches.

While storms are possible any time this afternoon through this evening, the most widespread thunderstorm activity is most likely to be late this afternoon through early this evening.

Heavy rainfall amounts in a short period of time may result in rapid rises on streams and creeks as well as the potential for flash flooding in urban areas.

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