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As Temperatures Dip, Local Shelter Offers Additional Shelter Services

As temperatures dip and the risk of hypothermia increases, local cold weather and hypothermia prevention programs are coming into full swing.

Beginning this month, all three of Fairfax County’s emergency centers that serve single adults instituted a “no turn-away policy.” Through March 31, the North County Human Services Building on 1850 Cameron Glen Drive will be open to individuals through the hypothermia prevention program.

Additional sleeping space will also be available at the Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Community Shelter, a 70-bed residential shelter, throughout the winter season. Services include hot dinner, breakfast, bagged lunches, showers, laundry, bus tokens and basic self-care supplies.

On Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m., the organization will also provide employment services at the main shelter. The shelter, which opened in 1987, has 42 beds for families, 28 beds for unaccompanied adults and 10 beds for cold weather overflow.

If an unsheltered individual is seen at night who may be at risk of hypothermia, the Fairfax County non-emergency phone line accepts calls at 703-691-2131. Emergency personnel will determine the shelter most suitable for the individual as needed.

For more information, contact Cornerstones at [email protected] or [email protected] 

To volunteer or donate, please contact Susan Alger at [email protected].

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Will Reston See First Snow of 2016 on Tuesday?

Snow Day in RestonIt’s been a mild winter in Reston so far. Remember wearing shorts on Christmas Day? Or that we’ve already set a record for the latest date with no measurable snow?

That could change on Tuesday. Maybe.

Meteorologists say an Alberta clipper will be dropping down across the Great Lakes and heading here today, bringing blustery conditions and snow showers to Northern Virginia.

But they also say temperatures may hover in the 40s, making it too warm for any significant snow. After sundown, though, temperatures will drop and the snow may pick up.

Still, they for calling “conversational” snow around here. Possibly enough to whiten the ground; not nearly enough to impact driving, school schedules or snowman making.

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VDOT Has Bigger Snow Removal Budget for Winter 2015-16

Snowplow/Photo Courtesy of VDOTNorthern Virginia’s snow removal budget has increased by $20 million for this winter. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will likely need the money as it spent more than double its allotted amount last winter.

VDOT has $70.7 million for snow removal and road maintenance for 2015-16. Last winter’s budget for Northern Virginia was about $50.5 million and $128.5 million was spent, VDOT officials said last week.

The region’s snow budget is part of VDOT’s statewide maintenance budget of approximately $1.5 billion.

“Each year, we strive to improve our winter operations both on the road and behind the scenes,” Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s maintenance engineer for Northern Virginia, said at the agency’s annual snow briefing last week.

Vlacich said high-tech tools, such as a real-time map on VDOT’s website that shows the progress of plows, continue to be a good resource for citizens. This will be VDOT’s third winter with the map.

“Over two years, we’ve seen hits to the site increase while customer calls decrease, as residents check road conditions, locations of our trucks and the progress of our crews,” Vlacich said.

When it snows more than two inches, residents can enter their address at www.vdotplows.org to see whether plowing is underway, completed or not yet started in their neighborhood. They can also track the location of plows in relationship to their house. The site is refreshed every five minutes.

VDOT is responsible for 17,737 miles of road in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties (Arlington County maintains its own secondary roads). About half of those miles are highways or high-volume routes, and half are neighborhood streets. During winter weather in northern Virginia, crews remove snow on both networks concurrently.

In Reston, main roads such as Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston Parkway, Sunset Hills Road, Lawyer Road, Fairfax County Parkway and Glade Drive are VDOT-plowed roads. Most neighborhoods, especially clusters, have private snowplowing contracts. Reston Association is not in charge of plowing Reston roads, though it does plow the 55 miles of paths, and will team with Fairfax County to plow several county-owned paths that will improve pedestrian access this winter.

VDOT is not responsible for sidewalks, even on VDOT-plowed roads, which continues to be a source of discussion and frustration among Reston residents each winter.

VDOT will have more than 3,500 contracted trucks and plows on the available this winter. Special equipment for some trucks will include a jet-powered snow melter for Park-n-Ride lots where snow piles can block spaces; seven high-pressure flush trucks clear snow and ice around the bollards separating the I-495 Express Lanes and regular lanes; two front loaders with 20-foot blades plow interstates during severe storms; speed-activated anti-icing equipment puts the right amount of material on the road.

VDOT file photo

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NWS: Winter Weather Advisory For Late Monday, Early Tuesday

Car stuck trying to get onto Dulles Toll Road at Reston Parkway/Credit: Peggy Fox via Twitter

Winter weather is heading back to the area overnight. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory. The Reston area could see about an inch of snow  late Monday into Tuesday.

From the NWS:

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 AM EST TUESDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 AM EST TUESDAY.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE… SNOW. SNOW MAY END AS A BRIEF PERIOD OF SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN.

* ACCUMULATIONS… 1 TO 2 INCHES. LITTLE OR NO ICE ACCUMULATION FROM FREEZING RAIN.

* TIMING… LATE THIS EVENING THROUGH OVERNIGHT.

* TEMPERATURES… MIDDLE TO UPPER 20S.

* WINDS… SOUTHEAST 5 TO 10 MPH.

* IMPACTS… ROADS WILL BE SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY… AND WITH TEMPERATURES BELOW FREEZING ANY UNTREATED ROADS WILL REMAIN SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY THROUGH THE MORNING RUSH.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW… SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.

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VDOT Shows High-Tech Tools To Combat Winter Road Woes

Snowplow/Photo Courtesy of VDOTThe Virginia Department of Transportation cannot stop the snow from falling, but it can use some new high-tech tools to better plow the 17,737 miles of Northern Virginia roads, keep residents informed and generally prevent accumulating flakes from becoming traffic mayhem.

At its annual Northern Virginia Snow Briefing on Tuesday, VDOT Assistant District Administrator of Maintenance Brancho Vlacich pointed out some of the predictions and tools for 2013-14.

First up: The National Weather Service predicts a “typical” Northern Virginia winter with about 15 inches of snow, he said.

“When it is two to four  inches [at a time], our goal is to have all roads passable in 24 hours,” he said. “Six inches, within 48 hours. But after  six inches, it presents a major challenge.”

But with a $63 million budget (up from $55 million last winter — $48 million of which was spent), as well as 340,000 tons of salt, 4,000 pieces of equipment and 95,000 tons of sand, the agency is ready, he said.

Also in the VDOT toolbox this winter:

  • A pilot program in which six VDOT trucks will have rear-mounted cameras. This will give the agency a real-time look at road conditions and whether roads were adequately plowed.
  • A new jet-powered snow melter for park-and-ride lots where snow piles can block multiple parking spaces.
  • An automatic vehicle locator system. Every VDOT and contractor truck will have an AVL to allow the agency and consumers to track where and when streets have been plowed. Bookmark www.vdotplows.org and check it often during a snow of more than two inches, said Vlacich. Also helpful: VDOT’s 511virginia.org site for updated traffic info
  • New road treatment featuring Chemshield, a new product that takes brine and mixes it with pine sap to better stick to the roads, even in rain.
  • A new VDOT mobile weather station – a Dodge Durango fitted with technology to assess road conditions.

Even with the latest in snow treatment and reconnaissance, Vlacich says VDOT still needs the public’s help. He reminds citizens to stay 100 feet behind snowplows, don’t pass plows, stay of roads during storms and telework if possible.

“Traffic is the major challenge for us in snow removal,” he said. “A plow sitting in traffic is ineffective.”

(Photo courtesy of VDOT)

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