Alexandria, VA

Holmes Run Trail through Eisenhower’s West End was fragmented by last year’s flooding, and city staff said it could remain that way for years to come.

Under normal circumstances, the Holmes Run Trail runs continuously northwest from Eisenhower Avenue to Columbia Pike with few, if any, interruptions. Flash floods from last year’s July 8 storms changed that.

Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said when the Barcroft Dam overflowed the stormwater caused significant damage to four areas along Holmes Run. Two bridges were damaged, one streambank got washed out and took the trail with it, and one crossing at Ripley Street was closed.

“We had to shut them down,” Browand said. “They’re not $50 fixes, they’re substantial engineering. We had them inspected and we have to keep them closed. So we’ll have to seek funding for design, engineering, and construction [of replacements].”

Browand said the city is still working through the documentation to receive reimbursement as a result of the state declaring an emergency.

“The timetable for seeking funding through budget process means it is likely going to be closed for one to three years in areas,” Browand said. “We established a website and we’re going to put out signs so people know why they’re closed. Some we might be able to open partially on extreme west end — where the bridge was washed out — west of I-395 but east of Beauregard. We can probably open a portion of the trail but the bridge cannot be used.”

As a result, Browand said the trail will not function as a continuous path from Eisenhower Avenue to Fairfax County. Visitors to the trail will have to take several detours, which Browand said will be obvious and clearly defined paths.

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Morning Notes

Flood Watch Issued for Alexandria — “Multiple rounds of rainfall will occur through early Friday. The heaviest rainfall potential will begin Thursday afternoon and continue into Thursday night. Storm total rainfall amounts through Friday morning are expected to range between 2 and 3 inches.” [Twitter, Twitter]

New Facility Opens at Bishop Ireton HS — “After less than eighteen months since its groundbreaking, Bishop Ireton High School hosted hundreds on Monday, February 3 who were there to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony and opening of the school’s new 40,000 square foot academic center, which sits adjacent to the current school building at 201 Cambridge Road.” [Zebra]

Del Ray Awards Voting Starts — “It’s February — and that means it’s time for the Heart of Del Ray Awards! ‘Every February, the Del Ray Business Association presents the Heart of Del Ray Award to the business that serves as the heart and soul of Del Ray, as determined by a public vote of neighbors and customers,’ according to the Del Ray Business Association.” [Alexandria Living, Heart of Del Ray]

Library to End Movie Streaming Service — “Alexandria Library is set to end access to the Kanopy on-demand movie streaming service for members on April 30… The library began offering the streaming service for free to members in August 2018.” [Patch]

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Nobody knows where the styrofoam that washed up on Alexandria’s shore came from, but it was one part of the haul of debris that got swept up in a recent deep clean of Alexandria’s waterfront.

“We have a debris problem on the river,” said Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities.

Alexandria is no stranger to flooding, but the city frequently struggles with debris not just from floods, but the common currents and tides that make Alexandria’s waterfront the region’s dumping ground.

Browand said the Potomac River’s flow pushes materials up into the city’s waterfront areas. High tides push those up into pools or riprap and they get stuck.

Browand said the city recently allocated $50,000 in funding to clean the waterfront, which paid for an initial cleaning from late December to Jan. 10. There’s enough funding for another major cleaning in the spring, likely around May, he said.

There are some areas that Browand said didn’t get the same level of treatment. If Alexandrians notice more debris in the northern portion of Windmill Hill Park, for instance, Browand said there is a contract to do planting there in the spring as part of a park renovation; it wouldn’t have been efficient to take the debris out just to re-clean that area after the planting.

“It just takes one strong storm with a northwest wind and we get a large accumulation overnight,” Browand said. “It’s consistently inconsistent with where debris lands.”

The city does implement some measures to try to cut down on debris. In the marina, Browand said there are “bubblers” that are partially submerged and create turbulence that keeps debris from becoming stuck. Even those solutions have their own problems, though, and Browand said the bubblers have to be adjusted regularly and are useless if there’s a low tide. There are also booms that keep debris out, but they’re not foolproof — they get breached and have to be manually cleared.

On a larger scale, there are several flood mitigation measures included in the city’s multi-year capital program for the waterfront. A study released last year included a review of plans for new bulkheads, a rehabilitated local storm sewer, and pumping stations.

“There’s no shortage of potential solutions, but they all cost money, time, and have environmental impacts,” Browand said. “The city’s waterfront is three miles long. That’s a lot of waterfront.”

One of the worst offenders for flooding is the riprap — man-placed stone obstacles meant to reinforce the shore and break up waves. Browand said the riprap has a tendency to collect and hold onto the debris pushed up by the tides. On the bright side, however, Browand said sometimes flooding during high tides pushes the trapped debris up onto the parks, which is unsightly but easier to clean up.

As for the styrofoam, Browand said the city doesn’t know where it came from and may never know.

“It was kind of odd,” Browand said. “It was a large concentration of it. Since then, we haven’t had that problem. Usually, there are things based on the weather, like tiny pieces of things will show up.”

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The sun is shining and last night’s light rain is a distant memory, but the lower portion of King Street in Old Town is flooded nonetheless.

The Potomac River has inundated portions of King Street, Prince Street and The Strand, as it has done in the past — as recently as last month. The water is thus far only causing minor impacts, including prompting the King Street Trolley to temporarily turn around at City Hall.

https://twitter.com/DASHBus/status/1196842284840574977

The National Weather Service has continued its Coastal Flood Advisory from last night, which now runs through 3 a.m. Wednesday. High tide happened around 1:15 p.m. this afternoon and will happen again at 1:35 a.m. tonight.

“Up to one half foot of inundation above ground level is possible,” NWS said in the advisory, below.

…COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 3 AM EST WEDNESDAY… * LOCATIONS…SHORELINE IN ARLINGTON COUNTY AND THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA. * TIDAL DEPARTURE…TWO TO TWO AND A HALF FEET ABOVE NORMAL. * TIMING…AROUND THE TIME OF HIGH TIDE. THE NEXT HIGH TIDE AT ALEXANDRIA WILL BE 1:35 AM TONIGHT. * IMPACTS…UP TO ONE HALF FOOT OF INUNDATION ABOVE GROUND LEVEL IS POSSIBLE. WATER IS EXPECTED TO APPROACH THE CURB NEAR THE INTERSECTION OF KING STREET AND STRAND STREET IN ALEXANDRIA. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY INDICATES THAT ONSHORE WINDS AND TIDES WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE FLOODING OF LOW AREAS ALONG THE SHORE. &&

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Expect some flooding near the waterfront in Old Town tonight.

The National Weather Service has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory, set to go into effect at 8 p.m. and run overnight. The Potomac River is expected to be up to 2 feet above its normal levels at high tide, around 12:30 a.m., approaching the curb at the intersection of King and Strand streets.

Old Town last experienced significant coastal flooding just over a month ago.

More from the National Weather Service:

…COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 8 PM THIS EVENING TO 5 AM EST TUESDAY… THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 8 PM THIS EVENING TO 5 AM EST TUESDAY. * LOCATIONS…SHORELINE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND ARLINGTON COUNTY AND THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA. * TIDAL DEPARTURE…ONE AND A HALF TO TWO FEET ABOVE NORMAL. * TIMING…AROUND THE TIME OF HIGH TIDE. HIGH TIDE AT WASHINGTON CHANNEL IS AT 12:12 AM OVERNIGHT. HIGH TIDE AT ALEXANDRIA IS AT 12:30 AM OVERNIGHT. * IMPACTS…SHORELINE INUNDATION IS EXPECTED ALONG PORTIONS OF THE SEAWALL ADJACENT TO OHIO DRIVE AND THE HAINS POINT LOOP ROAD AND NEAR THE TIDAL BASIN. WATER IS EXPECTED TO APPROACH THE CURB NEAR THE INTERSECTION OF KING STREET AND STRAND STREET IN ALEXANDRIA. MINOR SHORELINE INUNDATION UP TO ONE FOOT ABOVE GROUND IS POSSIBLE ELSEWHERE. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY INDICATES THAT ONSHORE WINDS AND TIDES WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE FLOODING OF LOW AREAS ALONG THE SHORE. &&

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Alexandria City Public Schools has some big projects on its plate, but at a School Board meeting last Thursday, many of the smaller projects discussed could have a big impact on the schools.

The meeting discussed the top priorities for non-capacity improvements next year. While several schools are slated for sweeping modernization projects over the next ten years, the Capital Improvement Program upgrades could provide some stop-gap improvements in the meantime.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School was one of those schools that was not on the list for modernization and capacity upgrades, but staff said an assessment of school facilities unequivocally deemed it “the worst school.”

“They were very concerned that it’s not in the ten year CIP,” staff said at the meeting. “Items we have on here [will be] bringing that up to par in the upcoming years.”

There are $4.9 million dollars in upgrades planned for the school in the CIP, with a recurring theme of trying to mitigate flooding and leakage prevalent throughout the school.

  • Building envelope repair: cafeteria window replacement and mitigation for flooding in the stairwell and gym
  • Flooring repair or replacement: replacement of the auxiliary gym floor
  • HVAC repair or replacement: replacement of HVAC systems that have reached the end of their life-cycle
  • Plumbing and restroom upgrades: reconstruction of second-floor toilets and refinishing those on the first floor
  • Renovations and reconfigurations: this item includes several projects around the school, mainly centered around preventing flooding
  • Roof repair or replacement: adds a new roof to the D-Wing of the school
  • Site hardscape repair or replacement: regrading of the courtyard and adding new pipes
  • Stormwater management: maintenance work around the school

The courtyard regrading was seen as particularly crucial at the school. According to staff, the roof drains directly down into the courtyard and the pipes don’t have the capacity to drain the water quickly enough, meaning water pools there and leaks down into the cafeteria below.

“There’s a chance for a community pool there,” one of the school board members quipped. “We need another one.”

Stormwater management was also noted by staff as a problem at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. The CIP allocated $566,741 for renovations to the gym and upgrades for the parking garage. Staff said leaky pipes in the parking garage pour water down onto cars and led one staff member to note that it frequently looks like “it’s raining inside Ferdinand T. Day.”

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25, in ACPS headquarters (1340 Braddock Place) and final adoption is scheduled for Dec. 19.

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

Weekend Flooding in Old Town — “There are several road closures in the old town area due to coastal flooding. The unit block of Prince Street, The Strand and Unit block of King Street High Tide are temporarily closed. Avoid the area.” [WJLA, Capital Weather Gang, Twitter, Twitter]

City Offices Closed for Holiday — Numerous Alexandria city government offices and facilities are closed today for the Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday. ALXnow will not be publishing additional news articles today, except in the event of breaking news.

Fire in Old Town North — “Engine 204 arriving with smoke showing in the 1100 Block of North Pitt Street. Crews have located and knocked down a fire on the second floor. Battalion 211 with the command.” [Twitter]

Va. Tech Launches Major Fundraiser — “Virginia Tech has embarked on a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign, the largest in the university’s history, in part to help fund its $1 billion planned innovation campus in Alexandria.” [Washington Business Journal, Virginia Tech]

Reflections on Old Alexandria — “‘In those days Alexandria was very different from what it is now,’ Robinson added. ‘Landmark Mall was a municipal airport and Duke Street was a two-lane asphalt road.’ But he said that the physical layout has not changed as much as what Alexandria has become. Robinson said change was gradual until, one day, it was as if someone ‘stomped their foot on the gas’ and it became a major metropolitan city.” [Zebra]

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