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A snow plow on King Street in Old Town. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

There’s not a speck of snow on the forecast, but Alexandrians might see snow plows making the rounds across the city today.

The city’s Department of Transportation & Environmental Services (T&ES) is doing a practice run today for potential wintery conditions.

“If you see snow plows on Alexandria streets on November 13, they are not responding to an actual snowstorm but are instead practicing their routes and equipment readiness,” the city said in a release.

According to the release:

Test runs are an essential part of the City’s winter preparedness strategy; they help T&ES, and other City agencies involved in winter weather response, to respond promptly and effectively to keep our streets clear and our community safe when a snow event does occur.

Such drills give snow plow operators the opportunity to refamiliarize themselves with equipment, routes, and safety procedures to enhance their efficiency when responding to snow and ice events. The dry runs also allow T&ES to identify and address any maintenance or operational issues with our snow plows, ensuring they are in peak condition when winter weather arrives.

As always, T&ES encourages everyone to exercise caution when encountering snow plows on City streets. Even when there isn’t snow and ice on the ground, we ask residents to please give snow plows space to safely maneuver.

Weather experts are predicting a potential winter wonderland this year, with estimates of up to six or seven inches of snow, Washingtonian reported.

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Holmes Run (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Anyone noticing that the water in Holmes Run looks different today: you’re not crazy: it’s because of a nearby water main break.

Alexandria Transportation & Environmental Services said though a water main break this morning (Thursday) at the 1100 block of Anderson Street has been cleared up, water in Holmes Run may “remain cloudy for the remainder of the day.”

Alexandria’s seen multiple water main breaks in recent weeks owing to the decreasing temperatures.

Water main breaks can be reported online through an automated process.

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Director of Transportation and Environmental Services Adriana Castañeda (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria has a new Director of Transportation and Environmental Services to oversee some of the biggest ongoing projects in the city.

City Manager Jim Parajon appointed Adriana Castañeda to lead the department.

“Castañeda joins the organization from the City of Tracy, California, where she oversaw housing, transit, airport, and economic development services as the Director of Mobility and Housing,” the city said in a release. “Previously Castañeda served the City of Dallas, Texas as its Director of Bond, and Construction Management, where she oversaw the capital infrastructure activities of nearly 200 staff and a $23 million operating budget.”

Parajon also joined the City of Alexandria from Texas back in 2021.

Alexandria’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services has become one of its most high profile sections in recent years thanks to large-scale projects aimed at improving transit infrastructure, stormwater capacity and more.

The release said Castañeda will be responsible for transportation systems and infrastructure, emergency weather planning, and refuse collections for the city.

“The City is set to embark upon new and necessary transportation and infrastructure projects,” said Parajon. “Ms. Castañeda’s expertise and leadership will be exceptionally valuable to our ability to meet the needs of our residents effectively and efficiently.”

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Several days of snowy weather have been a mild headache for Alexandria’s emergency management team, but all things considered: staff says things are going pretty well.

“Things are going good” said Jeff Duval, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “We’ve had a few days of challenging weather. The storms has been persistent, they’ve come and gone with multiple bands.”

Duval said the cycle of “snow, sleet, ice, back to snow, back to sleet” has been sort of a headache for traditional emergency management operations. The cause: Alexandria’s two-day snows are the result of two weather events coinciding.

“We’ve seen it all in the last couple days,” Duval said. “It’s actually two storms in the last two days; one from West Coast and a low pressure storm off the coast of Virginia. It made this one a little bit different, but nothing too crazy.”

Overall, Duval said there hasn’t been a particular spike in calls for service, largely because many of those who would be driving around and stuck in bad weather are at home due to the pandemic.

“It’s been fairly quiet,” Duval said. “A lot of folks are still working from home due to COVID pandemic, so traffic volume is down and schools already virtual. We didn’t have a lot of pressure towards getting schools open.”

Widespread working-from-home is windfall as the city faces heavy snowfall.

“This was, for us, the most significant [winter] storm we’ve seen in a couple years, so it was good to get back into the swing of winter operations,” Duval said. “We do tremendous prepping for winter operations, like tabletop exercises, but until you get a storm and can exercise a system — that’s when we get our best practices.”

The main challenge has been keeping crews safe and spirits high when they’re unable to gather in-person. Duval said crews traditionally have “muster meetings” at the beginning and end of shifts, but operations had to change to keep the teams safe.

“We’ve been at it for almost a year though with that and other activities,” Duval said. “We do an after-action after every significant event. We typically put drivers in a room and ask what went well, but we’ll have to do that a little differently.”

Now, Duval said his team has their eyes on the upcoming weekend as they wait to see whether there’s more snow in stock for the city.

“We’re watching the weather; there could be additional precipitation this Sunday,” Duval said. “It’s still a little far in advance to say, but thats’ what we do this time of year.”

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A former employee of Alexandria’s Dept. of Transportation and Environmental Services has been charged with embezzling from the city.

In a press release Thursday afternoon, police said the employee sold more than $10,000 worth of electrical cable owned by T&ES to scrap dealers.

The alleged embezzlement happened between January and July of last year. The employee was fired at the end of July and now faces felony charges.

More from an APD press release:

Arrian B. Mercer, a former traffic technician for the City of Alexandria, was arrested by Alexandria police officers on January 17 and charged with felony embezzlement of public property.

The City’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services identified suspicious activity and notified the City Manager’s Office, which in turn directed the Police Department to conduct a criminal investigation and the Office of Internal Audit to conduct an internal investigation. These investigations determined that between January and July 2019, Mr. Mercer allegedly sold more than $10,000 worth of traffic signal cable to scrap dealers for personal gain. The City terminated Mr. Mercer’s employment on July 31, 2019.

An arrest warrant was obtained in December 2019. Mr. Mercer was arrested once his location could be determined. The City has implemented new procedures to enhance the security of public property, and additional measures are under review.

Photo via Alexandria Police Department/Facebook

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Some Alexandria residents scheduled for a Thursday curbside recycling pickup had their bins collected today due to a post-holiday rush at the place where the recycling is dropped off.

“The City of Alexandria is experiencing temporary curbside recycling service delays due to heavy volumes and wait times at the recycling facility following the holidays,” the city said via email Thursday. “The delays may affect some customers who have curbside recycling collection scheduled for today.”

“Customers whose recycling was not collected today will receive pickup service [Friday],” the city said.

Separately, Alexandria’s Dept. of Transportation & Environmental Services is reminding residents that curbside Christmas tree pickup will start next Thursday, Jan. 2.

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