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In less than two years, the flooding that plagues Old Courthouse Road at Besley Road during every rain storm should be relegated to the past.

Construction has been underway since February to realign the intersection on the border of Tysons and Wolf Trap, giving it a literal boost with a bridge and other design and safety improvements.

In addition to replacing a “substandard” culvert with a bridge over Wolftrap Creek, the project will elevate and reconstruct about 1,000 feet of Old Courthouse Road and shift the Besley Road alignment east, according to a Fairfax County Department of Transportation presentation.

It will also add pedestrian improvements, including a crosswalk and refuge island east of Besley Road and walkways on both sides of Old Courthouse Road. The south side will get an 8-foot-wide shared-use path, while on the north side, a 5-foot-wide, concrete sidewalk will transition to an 8-foot shared-use path that connects to Spring Lake Trail, FCDOT spokesperson Freddy Serrano says.

Designed to accommodate a 25-year flood event, the project has been in the works for almost a decade now. FCDOT submitted preliminary plans back in 2016 and held its final community meeting on the design in February 2018.

The project is being funded by county bonds approved by voters in 2014. Its estimated cost of $15.5 million includes $11.4 million for construction.

Fort Myer Construction Corporation, the county’s contractor, is working in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s right-of-way from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, according to Serrano.

Outside the right-of-way, construction hours are between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“There are a variety of phases to the project and impacts to traffic will vary depending on the phase of construction,” Serrano said. “There are short segments of road closure where traffic will alternate through the construction zone during some of the construction activities.”

Besley Road will be closed during the fourth phase of construction, which will focus on a 150-foot stretch of the road and is expected in the spring of 2025. FCDOT has proposed detouring traffic onto Arabian Avenue.

Construction of the overall project is scheduled to finish in December 2025.

Two single-family homes are proposed in a floodplain area on Monroe Street (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon is considering the placement of two single-family homes in a floodplain on Monroe Street.

First approved in January 2022, the proposal has returned to the Herndon Town Council after the applicant sought to increase the footprint of the proposed residential structures.

Because the homes are in the floodplain overlay district, the units are subject to additional planning and development criteria.

David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator, said the applicant wants to increase the footprint of a house at 1317 Monroe Street from 2,200 square feet to 3,500 square feet and a house at 1315 Monroe Street from 2,850 to 3,680 square feet.

Town staff recommended approval of the project at a council work session on Tuesday (Jan. 16), reporting that the plan won’t result in an increase in flood heights or the size of the floodplain.

Stromberg emphasized that the applicant must also maintain a 100-foot buffer from resource protection areas and use the most up-to-date flood information available to guide stormwater management.

Councilmember Kevin LeBlanc said he was curious to see how the development proposal would affect runoff in the overall neighborhood — a criterion generally not evaluated within the scope of this proposal.

“They still have to meet all the stormwater requirements that are out there as far as making sure the drainage doesn’t go onto an adjacent property…and that you are meeting stormwater quality requirements,” Stromberg said.

He noted that the applicant must comply with all additional zoning ordinances and receive compliance approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The special exception request will get a public hearing and final vote before the Herndon Town Council later this month. The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 23.

A High Wind Warning has been issued for the D.C. area starting at 3 p.m. on Jan. 9 (via NWS/Twitter)

Updated at 3:35 p.m. — A Flood Warning has been issued until 11:30 p.m., for Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, where “flooding caused by excessive rainfall is expected.”

Earlier: Fairfax County Public Schools has called off all remaining activities on school grounds today (Tuesday) in anticipation of a strong rainstorm expected to last through this evening.

“Given the strength of the storm predicted to hit our area later this afternoon/evening, all activities scheduled in Fairfax County Public Schools or on school grounds for this afternoon and evening are canceled,” the school system said.

The cancellations apply to all extracurricular activities, team practices, after-school programs, field trips, adult classes and outside recreational programs by groups not affiliated with FCPS.

The announcement came as the National Weather Service warns that conditions will “deteriorate as a strong frontal system” passes through the D.C. region between 5 and 10 p.m. The rain that has been falling all day is projected to increase in intensity through the afternoon, becoming heaviest starting at 6 p.m.

“This will result high winds capable of downing trees and powerlines, tidal flooding, and the potential for flooding of small streams and creeks,” the NWS said in a special weather statement. “This will create hazardous travel conditions late this afternoon through late evening across the region.”

As previously forecast, a Flood Watch took effect at 1 p.m. and is set to remain in place until 7 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).

The NWS has also issued a High Wind Warning for 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. tomorrow and a Coastal Flood Warning for Fairfax County that will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Southeast winds could reach 25 to 40 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph, while low-lying areas may get 1 to 2 feet of water above ground level as a result of tidal flooding, according to the NWS.

“Tides up to 3 feet above normal,” the agency said in the flood warning. “Moderate tidal flooding is possible along the Prince Georges and Fairfax counties coastlines during tonight’s high tide cycle.”

Because of the strong winds, power outages are expected, and travel will be difficult, the Fairfax County Department of Emergency Management says, sharing tips for how to prepare and who to call in the event of an outage:

Take Action

  • Secure outdoor objects, including trash cans, holiday decorations and other items.
  • Be careful when you’re outside, especially around areas with lots of trees.
  • Charge phones in case of a power outage.
  • If you lose power, report your outage, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns.

Who to Contact

Dominion Energy

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative

A Fairfax Connector bus travels on Maple Avenue during a rain storm on Jan. 6, 2023 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

In case you didn’t get your fill of rain on Saturday (Jan. 6), another downpour could be in store for Fairfax County this week.

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch and a Wind Advisory for the mid-Atlantic region, including Fairfax County and the rest of northern Virginia, ahead of a storm that’s expected to travel up the East Coast tomorrow (Tuesday).

Issued this morning, the Flood Watch is currently set to take effect at 1 p.m. tomorrow and remain in place until 7 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 10). The alert warns that flooding caused by “excessive rainfall” of two to three inches is possible.

The forecast indicates that the heaviest period of rain will come in the afternoon and evening.

“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” the NWS said. “Creeks and streams may rise out of their banks. Flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas. Low-water crossings may be flooded.”

The Wind Advisory will be in place from 3 p.m. tomorrow to 1 a.m. Wednesday. Southeast winds may reach 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph, according to the NWS.

“Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result,” the alert says.

According to the Capital Weather Gang, the incoming storm will be similar to the one that hit on Saturday, fueled by warm air from the south that will turn most of the precipitation into rain.

Forecasts last week suggested Fairfax County could get up to an inch of snow and sleet accumulation from Saturday’s winter storm. NWS data for the Dulles Airport area indicates that the 0.97 inches of precipitation recorded that day was mostly rain, though there were “trace” amounts of snow.

A truck got trapped by flooding on Arlington Blvd in Merrifield in 2019 (via FCFRD/Twitter)

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) has proposed a new grant program to help curb flooding in the county.

The flood mitigation assistance program (FMAP) would reimburse residents and property owners for purchasing and installing approved products and services that reduce the risk of flood damage to their property.

The program calls for a cost-sharing agreement where the resident or property owners cover 50% of the cost, and the county covers the other half up to $5,000, DPWES Deputy Director Eleanor Ku Codding told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at an environmental committee meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 3).

The program was made to be flexible, according to Codding. It’s open to residential or commercial multi-family properties, common-interest communities, and places of worship. Approved flood mitigation practices include:

  • window wells
  • flood gates
  • modified basement areaways
  • sump pump backup batteries
  • utility protection
  • exterior grading or drains

However, if an owner wanted to use another flood mitigation service not listed, it would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Codding said, since drainage is not a straightforward issue, sharing the cost is a good solution.

“By establishing a cost-share program, we are allowing residents to be empowered to take action to mitigate that risk of flooding,” she said. “In addition, we have seen that the best flood risk reduction programs — including FEMA — include these types of cost-share programs.”

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust supported the program but called for the county to take more action.

“We should be thinking bigger in terms of stormwater management because it’s a huge problem,” Foust said. “And once we adopt this, then we’ll be done with it. We’ll check it off and move on to the next thing, and I just think the problem deserves more.”

Codding said other programs could be brought to the board in the future.

The county has discussed raising its building stormwater standards to accommodate more frequent and extreme flooding, and earlier this year, it piloted a program for sharing the cost of projects with private property owners, essentially testing the approach proposed for the new assistance program.

Funded through the county’s Stormwater Service District taxes, FMAP would start on July 1, 2024, and applications would be reviewed on a first come, first served basis. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District would administer the program.

DPWES will return to the board at a public hearing to get authorization to sign the memorandum of understanding with the conservation district. The agreement will establish rules for how the district should administer the program.

Screenshot via FCFRD/Twitter

Rain at the Sully Place Shopping Center in Chantilly (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A Flood Watch is now in effect for the D.C. area, including Fairfax County.

The National Weather Service describes the chances of “slow-moving showers and thunderstorms” this afternoon into the early evening as “likely.”

Issued at 11:26 a.m., the alert will be in place until 8 p.m.

“A few inches of rain is possible in a short amount of time as a result, and may cause rapid rises of water on creeks, streams, urban and poor drainage areas, and in other flood-prone locations,” the NWS says.

Rain has become more plentiful in recent days after the D.C. region experienced drought conditions earlier this year. A storm on Wednesday (July 5) brought at least 1-4 inches of rain, according to the NWS, contributing to flooding and power outages, particularly in the central part of Fairfax County.

The full alert is below:


* WHAT…Flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall is possible.

* WHERE…Portions of DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia, including the following areas: in DC, District of Columbia. In Maryland, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Central and Southeast Howard, Central and
Southeast Montgomery, Charles, Frederick MD, Northern Baltimore, Northwest Harford, Northwest Howard, Northwest Montgomery, Prince Georges, Southeast Harford, and Southern Baltimore. In northern Virginia, Arlington/Falls Church/Alexandria, Central and Southeast Prince William/Manassas/Manassas Park, Eastern Loudoun, Fairfax, Northwest Prince William, Stafford and Western Loudoun.

* WHEN…Until 8 PM EDT this evening.

* IMPACTS…Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations.

– A couple rounds of slow-moving showers and thunderstorms are likely this afternoon into this evening. A few inches of rain is possible in a short amount of time as a result, and may cause rapid rises of water on creeks, streams, urban and poor drainage areas, and in other flood-prone locations.

Flooding on Old Courthouse Road (file photo)

Fairfax County is pushing forward on a program that could have the county government split the bill for private stormwater projects with property owners.

Flooding doesn’t end at the property line and the Local Stormwater Management Assistance Fund aims to help boost stormwater management on private property. At an environmental committee meeting of the Board of Supervisors on April 25, staff presented an update on the program.

“This is a good example of how: even when we say everything is private, it’s your responsibility, at the end of the day, if things fall apart, they somehow end up in our lap,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The pilot divided the cost-sharing based on the percentage of property that’s public versus private. For a stormwater issue where most of the drainage is on public land, the county will pay most of the bill, whereas for an issue where the drainage is mostly on private property, the owners would pay the majority.

Cost sharing with new Local Stormwater Management Assistance Fund (via Fairfax County)

The initial budget for the program would be $250,000, with up to $7,000 allowed for each project applying to the fund. Staff said no more than 30 projects could be funded per year through the program, butwith the current eligibility restrictions, even 30 projects was somewhat optimistic.

The county is currently finishing up a pilot program that included the Millwood Pond, Virginia Center or Nutley, Green Trails and Gunston Corner facilities.

The county has signed an agreement with the Millwood Pond owners but determined no maintenance was needed. A “complex” maintenance project at Nutley has been completed, while one at Green Trails is under construction. Negotiations on an agreement for the Gunston Corner pond are still underway.

After the pilot finishes, staff will return to the Board of Supervisors’ environmental committee.

Dec. 22 Flood Watch advisory area (via Fairfax Alerts)

A major winter storm is headed for the D.C. area, just in time to disrupt holiday travel.

While the snow and ice created by a “bomb cyclone” is expected to stay further west, Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area are in for a downpour, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS has already issued a Flood Watch for the region that’s set to be in effect from 11 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) to 1 a.m. Friday (Dec. 23).


* WHAT…Flooding caused by excessive rainfall is possible.

* WHERE…DC and portions of Maryland and northern Virginia, including the following areas: District of Columbia. In Maryland, Anne Arundel, Cecil, Central and Southeast Howard, Central and Southeast Montgomery, Prince Georges, Southeast Harford and Southern Baltimore. In northern Virginia, Arlington/Falls Church/Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William/Manassas/Manassas Park.

* WHEN…From Thursday morning through late Thursday night.

* IMPACTS…Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations. Flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas.

– Moderate rainfall is expected Thursday into Thursday evening, with rainfall totals of one to two inches. This may lead to isolated instances of flooding, especially in urban and poor drainage areas.

The Virginia Department of Transportation advises those planning to travel for Christmas to leave today instead of tomorrow, particularly if they’re going to be in the western half of the state.

“Crews have already begun pretreating and brining the roads and will begin deploying trucks early Thursday morning to treat roads as needed,” VDOT said in an advisory.

The department also warned that temperatures are expected to plummet into Friday, meaning fallen rain might refreeze into ice. Forecasts indicate this weekend may be the coldest Christmas in decades.

Fairfax County faces a marginal risk of flash flooding from Hurricane Ian (via NOAA)

(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) An October weekend once filled with fall events is starting to clear out, as Fairfax County braces for Hurricane Ian.

The storm that devastated Florida after making landfall on Wednesday (Sept. 28) is expected to weaken as it heads north, but its rain and winds could still prove dangerous, the Fairfax County Department of Emergency Management and Security (DEMS) warns.

According to the department, remnants of Hurricane Ian are projected to arrive tonight (Friday), bringing scattered flooding and strong winds:

  • Scattered localized flooding is possible from rain. Overall, we are not expecting significant flooding impacts from this event. The rainfall totals are expected to be between 1″-2″ with a high end of 3″ over the three day period of Friday through Sunday. A rumble of thunder may enter the area early Saturday morning, but no significant thunderstorm threat is expected.
  • Winds will be sustained at 15-20 mph with gusts between 20-30 mph throughout the weekend.
  • Tidal anomalies of 1-2 feet are possible, but no significant tidal flooding for Fairfax County is expected.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a State of Emergency earlier this week, giving the state authority to mobilize resources in preparation for the storm.

Several events planned across the county for tomorrow (Saturday) have already been canceled or rescheduled, with organizers citing the impending inclement weather. Others are still monitoring conditions before making a determination.

The McLean Project for the Arts pulled the plug on its annual MPAartfest on Wednesday, though the 2022 McLean 5K is still on for now.

“This is a rain or shine event, we have no plans to cancel,” McLean Community Center General Programs Director Mike Fisher said. “If we do cancel, that decision will be made in the moment as a result of on the ground conditions at the event site.”

Reston Community Center’s first-ever Silent Dance Party at Reston Station has been postponed to 5 p.m. on Oct. 9, while Reston Association announced yesterday (Thursday) that its popular Reston Community Yard Sale has moved to next Saturday, Oct. 8.

This morning, the Town of Vienna officially canceled tomorrow’s Oktoberfest, which drew more than 35,000 visitors last year. The Fall Native Plant Sale has been bumped to Oct. 8.

In lieu of the town’s official Oktoberfest, the Vienna Moose Lodge (9616 Courthouse Road) has teamed up with Caboose Brewing Company to host indoor festivities with draft beer and pretzels from noon to 9 p.m.

Both Fairfax County Park Authority events set for tomorrow have been altered. Bug Fest at Lewinsville Park in McLean has been postponed to Oct. 22, but Buktertoberfest at Burke Lake Golf Course has been canceled.

In Fairfax City, the Out of Darkness Walk to raise awareness about suicide and mental health impacts is currently still a go, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it will provide an update by 5 p.m. if that changes.

Map via NOAA

Rain collects around a storm drain (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is considering making all existing and future development built to lessen flooding risks from huge, 100-year event storms, as opposed to a 10-year storm.

The risk of flooding in the county is rising due to climate change, staff told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors environmental committee late last month. While preventing flooding is impossible, its impact can be mitigated, they said.

Under the staff proposal, the county would require all future development to have proper drainage, pipe conveyance, and safety measures to accommodate a 100-year storm event adjusting for climate change.

The proposal is part of the county’s Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, which was approved last September.

A “100-year storm event” is defined by the U.S. Geological Survey as one that “statistically has a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year.” It brings about 8 inches of rain over a 24-hour period, according to the latest data.

With climate change expected to produce stronger storms and increased flooding, that figure is likely to be adjusted in the future.

Part of the proposal is that new development would be required to be built to adjust for predicted sea level rise and severe weather risks.

Currently, all developments must accommodate a 10-year storm event, which is the 10% chance of 4.5 inches of rain falling in a 24-hour period.

In the last decade, Fairfax County and the D.C. region have experienced several flood-level storms. In 2011, Tropical Storm Lee dumped 7 inches of rain in three hours. In 2019, nearly 5 inches came down in some parts of the county, and just last month, nearby Montgomery County experienced extreme flooding from more than 5 inches of rain.

For existing structures, like houses, the plan is to “mitigate” flooding through regulation, public infrastructure projects, and recovery programs.

“There’s no right answer about what flood risk is acceptable because there’s no such thing as zero risk from flood,” Department of Public Works and Environmental Services Deputy Director Ellie Codding said. “What we can do is design infrastructure to a reasonable point and to educate the public and be ready with resources for recovery.”

With water typically passing through residential properties from upstream, a channel or flood path blocked by a fence, debris or an unpermitted addition can exacerbate flooding, preventing water from flowing where it was designed to go.

Almost all flooding in the county happens in basements, Codding said, so understanding and preventing this is a shared responsibility of residents and the county.

“With participation from residents and businesses, the county alone can’t achieve a meaningful level of flood risk reduction,” she said.

Of course, all of this will come with a cost, one that might be supplemented by increased taxes.

While board members agreed with the overall assessment, several noted that educating homeowners will be an important and more cost-effective component.

Chairman Jeff McKay said homeowners associations or community groups that own and manage stormwater facilities and common areas (like ponds) may not know how to maintain those.

“I’m increasingly concerned about the smaller subdivisions and lack of information, assistance, and oversight to even maintain stormwater facilities that they put in with their development,” McKay said.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw noted that some responsibility needs to fall on contractors, who might be doing home renovations or repairs. They are either not educated themselves on good practices or not passing that knowledge on to their clients.

With the board’s consent, county staff are expected to present a “proof-of-concept” study with cost estimates next spring, followed by a flood mitigation plan later in 2023.


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