Video: Safety Tips for Driving in the Rain

Posted at 7:40 a.m.

The morning commute is always interesting here in Northern Virginia — but add rain and things can get complicated.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has some good guidance for safe driving in the rain, like keeping extra distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Also, turn on your lights anytime it’s raining. Check out the video for more tips.

And most importantly, remember to turn around, don’t drown if you encounter high water or standing water on area roadways.

It is impossible to tell the exact depth of water covering a roadway or the condition of the road below the water.

It is never safe to drive or walk through flood waters. Any time you come to a flooded road, walkway, or path, follow this simple rule: Turn Around Don’t Drown.

It’s a Rainy Commute

Posted at 6:50 a.m.

keep calm and slow downOvernight rain continues this morning, making for a messy commute. The National Weather Service has also issued a flood warning until 10:45 a.m.

If you’re on the road this morning, please take a few extra minutes and drive with caution. Roads are wet — so slow down.

Before 5 a.m. this morning, law enforcement reported several roads affected by water. Here’s what we know about right now:

  • Chantilly: Multiple vehicle accident is blocking Route 28 northbound prior to Willard Road.
  • Fairfax Station: Burke Lake Road is closed at Jeremiah Court due to flooding.

If you encounter closed roads or roads affected by high water, do not attempt to drive through. Turn around and find an alternate route. And if possible, report any road issues to our non-emergency telephone number, 703-691-2131.

Today’s forecast calls for rain showers, with thunderstorms also possible after 8 a.m. Get more details on the weather forecast online, and be sure to sign up for Fairfax Alerts for severe weather alerts.

 

Flash Flood Watch Issued; Heavy Rain Possible

Posted at 4:20 p.m.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flash flood watch in effect from 6 p.m. this evening, Wednesday, Sept. 28, through Friday morning, Sept. 30.

A powerful low pressure system over the midwest will bring periods of heavy rain to our area tonight through Thursday night. NWS reports that widespread rainfall is expected with localized spots potentially getting up to a foot of rain. NWS notes that we should expect rain beginning this afternoon and continuing through Friday afternoon; heaviest amounts are expected to occur between midnight tonight and Thursday.

Precautions and Actions

These next few days will require more than the usual awareness, planning and preparations.

  • If you are near streams or drainage ditches, keep an eye on them and be ready to quickly seek higher ground. Water may rise rapidly.
  • Clear out storm drains and gutters to ensure that they are not clogged.
  • Those prone to basement flooding should prepare. Move items off basement floors and consider moving valuables to an upper level of your home.
  • Communities prone to flooding should prepare. Move vehicles to higher elevations. Don’t park in restricted areas and try to avoid parking under trees when possible.
  • Be prepared to take action if a warning is issued for where you are or if flooding is observed.

Continue to check in on the forecast for updates. Warnings will be issued for areas where flooding is imminent. Ensure that you get warnings from the National Weather Service through your mobile phone and or NOAA weather radio. Sign up for severe weather alerts from Fairfax Alerts.

With all high-intensity rainfall, street flooding is possible. If there is any possibility of a flash flood:

    • Move immediately to higher ground.
    • Do not wait for instructions to move.
    • Be aware of streams, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly.
    • Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.

Turn Around Don't Drown

And please remember to keep children away from creeks and their potentially rapidly rising waters.

In addition, remember if you experience water on roads, Turn Around. Don’t Drown. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. And it takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

Stormdrains

Blocked stormdrains prevent the flow of rain from reaching streams and stormwater detention ponds. The water then backs up into streets and yards and may flood basements. Blocked stormdrains also may damage residential and commercial property and cause traffic delays.

Keep the openings of storm drains clear of debris to help alleviate potential flooding and to protect the environment. At no time should you attempt to enter a storm drain to remove debris.

Property owners are responsible for driveway culverts and bridges that are part of the driveway structure and are not public storm drainage system structures. Storm drains outside rights-of-way and easements are privately maintained by the property owner.

To report a blocked storm drain, call Fairfax County Stormwater Management, 703-877-2800, TTY 711, or the Virginia Department of Transportation at 703-383-8368, TTY 711.

Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System

Posted at 9:30 a.m.

Emergency Alert System (EAS) LogoThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a mandatory nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) this afternoon, Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

The purpose of the test is to ensure that EAS remains an effective means of public warning about emergencies and was designed to assess the President’s ability to send a message to the American people within 10 minutes of a disaster.

Periodic testing of public alert and warning systems helps to assess the operational readiness of alerting infrastructure and identify any needed technological and administrative improvements.

FEMA’s test message will be similar to the regular monthly EAS test messages. Specific language will differ slightly for the national test.

“This is a national test of the Emergency Alert System. This is only a test.” (emphasis added.)

The test message will be transmitted in both English and Spanish, with EAS participants deciding which version to use for their communities. The test is intended to last approximately one minute and is expected to have limited impact with only minor disruptions of radio and television programs. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) will not be part of the test.

How EAS Works

The Emergency Alert System is a resilient form of emergency alert notification. Emergency alerts are created by authorized government agencies and sent to local radio and video service providers by local connections or through a central system administered by FEMA. The radio and video service providers then disseminate the emergency alert messages to affected communities. The FCC prescribes technical and procedural rules for communications providers’ participation in this process.

Survey Shows Many Fairfax County Households Lack a Basic Emergency Plan and Kit

Posted at 1 p.m.

Even though the majority of Fairfax County residents say they feel prepared for a large-scale emergency, a significant portion of households do not have a communication plan for family members or an emergency supply kit at home, according to a recent survey.

Coinciding with National Preparedness Month, the county’s Health Department released the report today from its Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) conducted in June to see how ready county residents are for a variety of emergencies.

Volunteers from the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps., American Red Cross and employees from the Health Department spent roughly 40 hours from June 4-16 going door-to-door in randomly selected neighborhoods within Fairfax County. A total of 1,227 households were approached and 253 interviews completed. The data obtained was then analyzed and compiled into a concise report that can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/ep/pdf/casper-final-report-2016.pdf (PDF).

According to the survey results:

  • Roughly 60 percent of households have an emergency communication plan.
  • 39 percent have a designated meeting place within the neighborhood. Only 19 percent have practiced the plan with all members of the household.
  • About 54 percent of respondents reported keeping an emergency supply kit (with items like flashlights, non-perishable food and drinking water) in the home; only 45 percent have a similar kit in their vehicle.

Fairfax AlertsThe report also reveals that almost 85 percent of respondents would seek information from Fairfax County Government during an emergency, but less than half (47 percent) of households are enrolled in Fairfax Alerts or a similar emergency alerting system. Television and the Internet were cited by respondents as the most popular sources of information during an emergency.

Other highlights:

  • Nearly 17 percent of residents feel unprepared in the event of a large-scale emergency.
  • About 91 percent of pet owners surveyed reported that they would take their pet with them in in the event of an evacuation but only 40 percent of pet owners have emergency supplies ready for their pets.
  • In 40 percent of households, someone has taken training in CPR and in 36 percent of households someone has taken training in first aid.
  • Nearly 30 percent of Fairfax County households do not currently have a working carbon monoxide detector in their homes.

Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER)

CASPER is a tool developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enable government at all levels to rapidly assess a community’s health needs after a disaster, as well as to measure community preparedness for disasters or emergencies using a validated sampling methodology.

While Fairfax’s CASPER shows that many households still need to take steps to be more prepared, the information is valuable to emergency planners who must anticipate, mitigate, plan for and respond to the potential needs of residents prior to, during and after a disaster.

“The CASPER study is important because it provides us real data specific to residents of Fairfax County that can help shape and direct Fairfax County Government’s preparedness and response efforts,” said Jesse Habourn, a senior emergency planner with the Health Department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Reinforcing the importance of having emergency supplies and an emergency plan, for both people and pets, will be of critical importance going forward.

Encouraging more people to sign up for text notification systems like Fairfax Alerts will also ensure residents are less vulnerable should there be widespread power outages or disruptions to telecommunication services.

Emergency Supply Kit

Everyone should have supplies on hand sufficient for at least three days following an emergency. The kit should be customized to individual and family needs and you should check supplies every six months. For a list of items to include, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/prepare/make-a-kit.htm

Make a Plan

If your family is in different locations when disaster strikes, do you know how you will contact each other and reunite at a safe location? ReadyNOVA.org  has an online tool that can assist residents and business owners in Northern Virginia to develop a Family Emergency Plan or a Business Emergency Plan. The final plan can be saved as a PDF document and emailed to family, friends and colleagues.

Stay Informed

Fairfax County’s Emergency Information Blog is the county’s main communication platform before, during and after an emergency. Residents can also sign up for important and timely weather, traffic and emergency alerts on Fairfax Alerts. To register, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts/.

For more information on emergency preparedness topics in Fairfax County, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/.