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National Weather Service outlook for May 16, image via National Weather Service/Twitter

Alexandrians are being told to seek shelter indoors immediately.

“The National Weather Service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Alexandria,” the city said in a release. “Seek indoor shelter immediately.”

The severe storm is expected to last for much of the afternoon with potential for damaging winds or hail.

Image via National Weather Service/Twitter

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Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne in the alley behind his house after flooding in Del Ray. (Courtesy photo)

(Updated 8:30 p.m.) As part of an upcoming overview of the budget, Alexandria’s City Council will be considering an increase in the stormwater utility fee (item 16).

The fee is scheduled to increase from $280 to $294 for the stormwater utility fee bill due Nov. 15 this year.

The increase is scheduled for second reading and a public hearing at the meeting on Saturday, April 23, with the final passage of the ordinance scheduled for Wednesday, May 4.

The increase is more modest than last year’s increase, which doubled the stormwater utility fee from $140 to $280 by November. The aim of last year’s fee increase was to help accelerate the timetable for needed stormwater projects.

The City Council is also scheduled to consider budget add/delete proposals as well as the establishment of the real and personal property tax rates, also scheduled for final approval in May.

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Nearly a year after Alexandria launched a flood mitigation program to reimburse projects on private properties, the city is apologizing for some delays with the program and said the process should be streamlined soon.

The Flood Mitigation Grant Program partially reimburses residents to install flood mitigation practices on their property. The pilot program launched last August and received over 175 applications. Applicants can receive a reimbursement of up to 50% of their project costs, up to $5,000. So far, the city has reimbursed nearly $300,000 worth of flood mitigation projects.  Bill Skrabak, deputy director of Infrastructure & Environmental Quality, said the city was hopeful it would get some use but wasn’t prepared for the number of grant requests.

“We launched the pilot phase of the Flood Mitigation Grant Program feeling hopeful people would take advantage — and we’ve been blown away by the tremendous number of applications submitted to the City,” Skrabak wrote in a city newsletter about flood mitigation. It’s taken us a bit longer than expected to process applications and issue payments. “I apologize for the delays you’ve experienced and can promise you we’re working on ways to speed up the application process to make it easier for you. Please bear with us as we streamline our process.”

Still, Skrabak said some residents have been making modifications to their home, like flood gates and sump pumps, which have helped in subsequent floods. The goal, Skrabak said, is to have private flood mitigations help support the bigger public infrastructure projects that store and convey excessive runoff.

“We understand climate change will continue bringing intense storms that wreak havoc on our region,” Skrabak said. “However, residents can take back some control by taking steps to mitigate flooding on their properties with financial assistance from the City.”

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A construction crew installs a check valve on East Mason Street in November (via City of Alexandria)

City staff laid out what’s ahead for some of the city’s stormwater infrastructure projects in a presentation prepared for the City Council’s meeting tonight (Tuesday).

Three large projects to increase sewer capacity are planned in Del Ray, according to the Flood Action Alexandria presentation. Two of the projects — a $34 million undertaking at East Glebe Road and Commonwealth Avenue and a $16 million project at Ashby Street and East Glebe Road — were merged together for planning purposes. The two projects are next to each other in the Four Mile Run watershed.

“This project is expected to increase the capacity, or size, of the stormwater sewer pipes; create opportunities for stormwater to be stored and released slowly over time; and incorporate ‘green infrastructure’ practices, such as permeable pavement, that allow the stormwater to soak into the ground, reducing runoff,” the city website states.

The contract for work in the Four Mile Run watershed is estimated to be awarded sometime this spring, with the project targeted for completion in 2025.

Another, called the Hooff’s Run Culvert/Timber Branch Bypass, is at the southern end of Del Ray. The $60 million project will construct a new stormwater pipe system to transport stormwater away from the Hooff’s Run Culvert, helping manage flows from the Timber Branch watershed, the city website states. The city plans to put out a request for qualifications for that project this spring.

Between fiscal years 2023 and 2032, the city proposes to fund $156 million in large capacity projects, $55 million in maintenance, $44 million in spot improvements and $18 million in water quality projects, according to the presentation.

The presentation lists two spot improvement projects in the design phase and another two in construction phase. Spot improvements are small capital projects meant to address localized flooding and draining issues relating to the city’s storm sewer system.

Cul-de-sac inlets and drainage are being designed for the Mount Vernon Avenue cul-de-sac near Blue Park. At Oakland Terrace in Rosemont, the city is in the design phase to stabilize degrading and eroding banks and protect sanitary sewer line.

The city is also increasing inlet capacity at Hume Avenue in the Potomac Yard area, and not far away at Clifford Avenue, and Fulton and Manning streets. The latter work started at the end of February.

Vernon Miles contributed to this article. Photo via City of Alexandria.

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In addition to ARPA funding, Alexandria is getting some love from the federal coffers for several longtime local priorities.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) announced last week that $5.4 million had been secured for ten infrastructure projects around Northern Virginia, all of which were in Beyer’s community project funding requests added to the omnibus spending bill.

“This project funding will support storm sewer and climate resilience improvements in Alexandria and Falls Church, improve IT services in Fairfax County, and fund mental health resources in Arlington,” Beyer said in a release. “It will support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras for the Alexandria Police Department, and help implement recommendations made by the National Park Service’s recently-completed safety study for GW Parkway. It will enhance pedestrian routes across our region, and expand our electric vehicle infrastructure.”

Beyer thanked his colleagues for the bipartisan effort in getting the funding passed and to local leaders who identified and helped develop the requests.

The Alexandria tranche of funding includes:

Project Name: Pilot Deployment of Body Worn Cameras in the Alexandria Police Department
Recipient: City of Alexandria
Amount Enacted: $600,000

Project Name: Clifford Avenue, Fulton Street & Manning Street Storm Sewer Improvements
Recipient: City of Alexandria
Amount Enacted: $420,000

Project Name: George Washington Memorial Parkway – Traffic and Safety Context Sensitive Solutions, Belle Haven to City of Alexandria
Recipient: City of Alexandria
Amount Enacted: $300,000

Alexandria has repeatedly failed to get a body camera program off the ground, with efforts going back as far as 2015. The $600,000 helps, but estimates have put the total cost to purchase and operate the cameras at $13 million.

The storm sewer improvements in Del Ray are also at an area long targeted for storm infrastructure investment. Some preliminary work began at the site in late February, according to the city website.

“I am thankful to my colleagues who enacted the legislation to fund these initiatives, and to the local leaders who worked with me to identify and develop the initial requests,” Beyer said. These projects will make a real, positive difference in our region.”

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A day after 10 inches of snow was dumped on the region, 95% of Alexandria’s primary roadways are now “passable”, according to the City’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services.

The Department also tweeted that 65% of the city’s secondary streets are passable, and that crews are working toward intermediate streets. There are also still three open requests to clear away snow from the city’s Arlandria neighborhood, according to the city.

The storm led to a two-day closure of the city government and virtual learning for Alexandria City Public Schools.

Still, the Alexandria Fire Department says the were no “unusual” storm-related calls for service.

“Like our neighboring mutual aid partners, AFD was very busy on Jan. 3 during the heavy snow,” AFD Senior Public Information Officer Raytevia Evans told ALXnow. “With our Logistics Section running the snow plow and our maintenance shop available to work through any mechanical issues that came up, we were able to work through delays due to the weather.”

Evans continued, “There were no particularly unusual calls related to weather, but the department remained busy throughout the day.”

Photo via John Antonielli

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Morning Notes

Alexandria residents along Telegraph Road demand action from state — “Residents who travel along a busy roadway in Northern Virginia are demanding answers from the state’s department of transportation.” [Fox5]

COVID-19 booster shots readily available in Alexandria and Fairfax County — “Thanks to all the work done setting up the infrastructure to provide initial vaccines to residents, it’s pretty easy to get a booster shot in both Alexandria and Fairfax County, as long as you qualify.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

New rain and stream gauges active in Alexandria — “The City has new rain and stream gauges to give residents early warning for dangerous conditions. Check levels near your neighborhood at http://alxfloodwatch.onerain.com.” [Department of Transportation & Environmental Services]

800 People Participate in Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in Alexandria — “Those walkers raised more than $135,000 through donations and sponsorship. But News4’s Derrick Ward reports that participants were raising much more than money.” [NBC Washington]

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Morning Notes

Local teen with cancer knits blankets to raise awareness — “West Potomac High School senior Jessica Foss should have been thinking about prom, graduation and heading off to college in the fall. Instead, in May 2020, in addition to missing out on typical senior year activities because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Foss received a diagnosis that would turn her world even more upside down – cancer.” [Alexandria Living]

Deadline nearing to register to vote in November election — “Oct. 12 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 2 General Election. Any eligible US citizen who will be 18 by 11/2/21 can register to vote. Questions about your registration status? Call us at 703.746.4050. vote.elections.virginia.gov”  [Twitter]

First City Council candidate forum is Wednesday — “The Seminary Road Civic Association will hold two question and answer forums for the nine candidates running for City Council and the two candidates running for mayor. The first of these forums takes place on Oct. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. and will include all candidates for City Council. The second SRCA forum will be held on Oct. 19 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will be between incumbent Mayor Justin Wilson and challenger Annetta Catchings. Both forums will be held on Zoom.” [Alex Times]

7 can’t miss Instagram spots in Alexandria — “Autumn in Alexandria, VA means show-stopping trees sweeping historic streetscapes with autumn hues, photo-ready rowhouses decked out with seasonal décor and gas lamps flickering above red brick sidewalks. Find timely artwork, sip a rainbow cider flight and more this fall–camera in hand. Pack a mask, put portrait mode on and get inspired with our ideas below” [Visit Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Considerable cloudiness (during the day). Occasional rain showers in the afternoon. High near 80F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%… Variable clouds with showers and scattered thunderstorms (in the evening). Storms more numerous during the evening. Low 67F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Professional pet sitter — “Alexandria Pet Care seeks a career pet expert to work with animals in their homes, dog walking and pet sitting. We are the most trusted and most experienced team in town, and we’d love to add you to our team of experts!” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Alexandria seeks input on phase II revision of noise ordinance — “On May 15, the Alexandria City Council adopted phase I technical revisions of the City’s noise ordinance. The City is now seeking public input on a phase II revision that would address policy issues associated with land use, noise levels and changes with noise sources. The objective is to finalize this revision for Council consideration by the end of 2021.” [City of Alexandria]

Alexandria author writes book on 19th century Scottish migrant — “First-time author Ellen Hamilton has spent years working on the story of William Gregory, who settled here in Alexandria in 1807. Now, her first book, ‘A Scottish Migration to Alexandria’, is going into print.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Health Department to offer free flu shots — “In an effort to ensure that the community has access to the influenza vaccine, the Alexandria Health Department is hosting a free clinic on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Hammond Middle School from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. High 79F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening, then mainly cloudy overnight with thunderstorms likely. Potential for heavy rainfall. Low 68F. Winds SSE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary bilingual COVID-19 vaccine promoter — “. The Vaccine Promotor(a)/CVN will engage with residents of underserved communities to provide education about COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination. The Promotor(a) will work with Neighborhood Health’s COVID-19 Outreach team to plan an overall outreach strategy and provide support to other vaccine-related activities.” [Indeed]

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There are dozens of volunteering opportunities in Alexandria.

“We need hundreds of people per week,” Volunteer Alexandria Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “More people are in need now than ever.”

Here’s Volunteer Alexandria’s list of new and upcoming opportunities.

  • Assist with the Halfway to Saint Patrick’s Day Festival — Help the Ballyshaners celebrate Irish Cultural Heritage on Saturday, September 18 with live music, Irish dancing, food and beverages. Volunteers are needed for 3-hour shifts, starting at 9am and ending around 8pm, to help with set up, entrance and exit monitoring, ID checks, and bartending (must be 21 and older). Click here to sign-up.
  • Crossing guards needed help children get to school and home safely — ACPS need your help getting our kids to and from school safely. Volunteers will control traffic at already designated crosswalks to allow families to cross streets safely to and from school. Times would be 7:15 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. and 2:25 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. at various schools across the city. Click Here to sign-up.
  • Deliver Meals to ACPS School Children — Senior Services of Alexandria is looking for volunteers to support school lunch delivery to families who have children learning virtually this fall. Volunteers are needed to pick up and deliver meals on Mondays and Wednesdays. Car and valid driver’s license required. Click HERE to express interest.
  • Event support needed for Living Legends of Alexandria reception honoring volunteers — Living Legends of Alexandria is seeking volunteers for the event. Tasks may include assisting with live screening set up, crowd control, parking lot assistance for anyone needing help, and much more. The event is at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 30. Click HERE to sign up.
  • Help with a 5K race — Run! Geek! Run! is a 5K race held each year with the proceeds going to the Child and Family Network Centers. Ironisitic is looking for volunteers to help our runners, assist with the water station, support the finish line, register individuals, cheer our runners along on the route, and clean-up after the race on Saturday, September 26. Click Here to sign-up.
  • Kids games and card making for first responders – Join us at Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library on Saturday, September 25 from 10 a.m. to noon to make cards for first responders, police officers, and firefighters. We will also be playing a few games to learn about fire and earthquake safety! Click HERE to sign up.
  • Prepare for a hurricane – Learn how to navigate disasters through an interactive tabletop exercise on Saturday, September 18. Join our Volunteer Reception Center core team that will organize volunteers ready to assist with community recovery efforts after a disaster. To sign up, click HERE.
  • Provide input for Dari and Pashto reading materials – Help translate common city materials and educational pamphlets for incoming Afghan refugees. During this virtual focus group on Wednesday, September 22, 7 – 8 p.m. we will discuss and identify potential needs and resources for refugees, identify reading materials that could be translated, and how to have them translated and then disseminated into
    the community. To sign up, click HERE.
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