54°Partly Cloudy

Bulova Calls for ‘Snow Summit’ to Review Recent Storm Response

by Karen Goff February 3, 2016 at 4:30 pm 12 Comments

Snowplow/Photo Courtesy of VDOTNorthern Virginia streets — and work and school schedules — are getting back to normal have the big snow of nearly two weeks ago.

So it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect about what went right and what wasn’t so right in the Fairfax County and Virginia Department of Transportation response.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova is calling for a “snow summit” at the Supervisors’ March 1 meeting.

“Compared to ‘Snowmageddon,’ [in February of 2010] where some county residents were trapped — some of them without power in their homes for up to a week —  I think VDOT’s response to this storm was excellent, but there are still lessons to be learned and practices that can be improved,” she said at Tuesdays Board of Supervisors meeting.

The supervisors will invite VDOT, school and police officials to the snow summit.

Other supervisors had opinions on snow removal response time, which varied in different parts of the county.

Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence) said VDOT’s online plow tracking map was “worthless,” echoing what many Reston Now readers were saying during the storm.

Smyth said officials should look for ways to get heavier equipment working sooner the next time there’s a big storm.

The storm of Jan. 22-23 dropped about 30 inches of snow in Reston.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said in her newsletter to residents this week that VDOT, which is responsible for county roads, and the Fairfax County Emergency Management Team had a response that was “as massive and continual as the snow fall.”

She pointed out that there are 16,000 subdivision streets across northern Virginia (many of them VDOT roads), “including significant challenges of parked vehicles, tight spots, mailboxes, intersections and driveways, and dead end cul-de-sacs.”

“Working in 12 hour shifts, around the clock, VDOT and their contractors committed to having one travel lane passable, which is defined as the ability for a rear wheel drive vehicle to operate safely, within 24 hours of the
last snowfall,” said Hudgins. “With a historical snow accumulation and white-out blizzard conditions, there 692 disabled vehicles, a heroic water rescue
of a St. Bernard and no Fairfax County deaths. That’s success by any plan’s standard.”

Some citizens have been peeved that plows came through a second time, clearing streets wider but also piling snow back onto previously shoveled crosswalks and intersections.

Pedestrian access was part of the reason Fairfax County Public Schools were closed for one week.

Bulova, as well as other supervisors, pointed out that the need for pedestrian access has increased greatly in the last 20 years as the county has gotten more urban. That is especially true in Reston, where a new Metro station — which requires various forms of rider access, including pedestrian, saw its first major storm since opening in summer 2014.

Meanwhile, Reston Association recently signed a deal with the county that will allow RA trail plows to move snow off of several county trails that connect with RA trails. In many cases, that will improve access to Metro’s Wiehle-Reston East station.

RA spokesman Mike Leone says the contract with the county was signed two weeks ago — the the storm began. RA is taking care of six out of 10 planned trails, and will take over the other four after the county makes repairs to them, said Leone.

One of the county trails not currently under RA care because of repairs is the busiest one — a walkway on the north side of Sunrise Valley drive near Soapstone that takes pedestrians to Wiehle-Reston East.

Have some thoughts on the recent storm and the county/VDOT response? Email Bulova at [email protected].

VDOT snowplow/file photo

  • Mike M

    Bulova: I think VDOT’s response to this storm was excellent.

    Hudgins: That’s success by any plan’s standard.

    • Greg

      When Sharon thinks we are all doomed.

      When Hudgins speaks, we all scratch our heads and wonder WTH she is trying to say.

  • home

    Could have used all the snow to build igloos for affordable housing.

    • This message brought to you by

      Cooled bý RELACs

  • John Farrell

    Sharon’s goy to be kidding. VDOT did a much worse job this year compared to 2010.

    The intersection of Waples Mill and Random Hills is still not clear 11 days after the snow stopped.

  • John Higgins

    I’m likely to be disappointed, but I would love to see this summit go down the list of deficiencies identified in 2010 and show where improvements were made – or not. From my own little corner of this world, I’d call this a better response.

    Ten years ago there was a lot of clucking and his hissing about uncleared sidewalks. Those are not generally county or VDOT issues, but very important to many of us. As far as I can see there has been zero improvement. Were it not for quickly returned high temperatures, folks would still be knee deep on their way to school and work.

    So, summit on faithful leaders, but remember it is not a blank sheet from which you work. Score yourselves against the best intentions from 2010 and let’s hear what is next.

    Oh, and special thanks to public safety personnel who continued to get the job done despite storm challenges. The Saint Bernard rescue mentioned by Supervisor Hudgins was a warming (no pun) example of what these men and women face while we sit comfortably grumbling about government workers.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Yes, this was such an unprecedented event. Virginia has never had snow before
    – how could they possibly have planned for such a thing? – and therefore it is necessary to have a special meeting to ponder what to do next time.

    • rwbill

      ? The fact that interstates and primaries were passable during 2-3 feet of snowfall and cleared shortly after the snow finished indicates that the planning and resources allocated were highly successful. Spread a layer of 30 inches of anything across 3 states and see how high the piles have to be. It was a terrific job, a result of years of adapting and planning.

      • Greg

        What good is it to keep the primary roads open when all of the subdivision roads were impassable for days?

        Absolute fail on the part of VDOT.

      • John Farrell

        But the major and minor arteries weren’t passable.

        Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley intersection was reduced to one lane in each direction for 6 days after the storm.

        Soapstone was one lane, not one lane in each direction, but only one lane for 6 days.

        South Lakes was one lane in each direction for 6 days after the storm ended.

        Sunrise Valley was one lane for a similar period.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Snow? What snow?

  • Greg

    “She [Hudgins] pointed out that there are 16,000 subdivision streets across northern Virginia (many of them VDOT roads), “including significant challenges of parked vehicles, tight spots, mailboxes, intersections and driveways, and dead end cul-de-sacs.””

    Intersections, mailboxes and driveways. Imagine that!

    Cul-de-sacs are old, 60’s and 70’s design and nothing new. There’re no surprises or unexplored territory–and if these obsolete “road” designs hinder progress, then make them snow emergency routes with no parking and no head-in parking on the cul-de-sacs ever.

    And, hire better plow drivers. I counted no fewer than 56 mangled and damaged guard rails in my short drive today — all of which will surely have to be replaced as they are dangerous hazards in current the condition.


Subscribe to our mailing list