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Thunderstorms and Lightning Safety

Posted at 11:50 a.m.

Summer is here, which means school is out, pools are open and baseball season is in full swing. Unfortunately, the summer months also bring higher possibilities for thunderstorms and other severe weather.

Although thunderstorms can occur any time of year, they are much more common during the summer, especially in the late afternoon hours. Besides just ruining your barbecue or golf outing, thunderstorms pose a real danger. In fact, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management reports that lightning kills over 60 people and injures over 400 more each year in the U.S. They can also develop very quickly — sometimes in less than 30 minutes — and with little warning, making it difficult to plan ahead and prepare.

when thunder roars go indoorsThe next time you see dark clouds rolling in over your picnic, party or day at the pool, remember these tips for staying safe during a summer storm.

  • Everyone knows to avoid open areas during a thunderstorm, but did you know that taking shelter under a tree is more dangerous? In Virginia, more deaths and injuries were reported from lightning strikes under trees than in open space from 1959-2000. When it’s raining hard our natural instinct is to find shelter, but unless you can get inside a building or car, you’d be better off in the rain than under a tree.

 

  • If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. This means you need to take caution even if you feel like the storm has nearly passed, as lightning can still strike up to 15 miles from the center of the storm.

 

  • Contrary to popular belief, lying down in a thunderstorm is not a safe practice. The idea is that by getting as low as possible one might lessen their chances of being struck. In reality, by increasing the amount of the ground’s surface you are covering, you are actually much more likely to be struck.

 

  • Getting inside is a great first step, but be sure to avoid plumbing, like baths, sinks and faucets, and electrical equipment, like phones and computers, as well as windows, porches and concrete floors and walls.

 

  • In the event that someone is struck by lightning, medical attention will likely be needed immediately. Once medical assistance has been called try to move the victim to a safe place. Don’t worry about touching a victim of a lightning strike; they won’t hold a charge. There is a chance that the victim’s heart or breathing may have stopped as a result of the strike, in which case CPR or AED will be needed.

The warm, humid conditions of summer are a perfect recipe for thunderstorms. Keep these tips in mind for a fun, safe summer, no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

For more information on thunderstorm and lightning safety, visit our emergency information page or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s thunderstorm basics Web page or the National Weather Service lightning safety Web page.

Hazardous Weather Outlook This Afternoon; Severe Thunderstorms are Possible

Posted at 12:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for Fairfax County and portions of the National Capital Region for this afternoon and evening, with thunderstorms likely late this afternoon and evening. According to the outlook, a few of the thunderstorms may become severe with a threat of damaging wind gusts, large hail and an isolated tornado.

Our Office of Emergency Management has been in contact with the local National Weather Service office, which predicts the severe weather will move into our area between 4-6 p.m.

New Severe Thunderstorm Risk Categories

To help us better understand thunderstorms — like today’s risk — the Storm Prediction Center has worked closely with National Weather Service (NWS) offices, social scientists, communication specialists, FEMA, forecasters and the general public, to arrive at a new five-category description of severe thunderstorm risks.

Understanding Severe Thunderstom Risk Categories
So for today’s storm, the below graphic from the Baltimore/Washington NWS office shows the affected areas and possible impacts of this afternoon’s weather.

Learn more about severe weather at www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/about.html#Severe.

In addition, remember to sign up for severe weather alerts from Fairfax Alerts, which can be sent to multiple email accounts as well as your cellphone(s).

Fairfax Alerts

Trash and Recycling Collection for Fairfax County Customers Suspended Today

Posted at 8:14 a.m.

Due to unsafe road conditions, Fairfax County trash and recycling collection in sanitary districts (15 percent of county households) on Thursday and Friday collection routes have been suspended for today, Friday, March 6.

Thursday and Friday collection customers will receive trash and recycling collection on Saturday, March 7, weather and road conditions permitting. Please make sure trash and recycling carts are accessible and not blocked in by snow to ensure collection.

You can check the trash/recycling county customer website for updated service information.

The impact of the winter weather may also be affecting the operations of private trash and recycling collectors. Customers of private service providers (more than 85 percent of county households) should contact their trash and recycling collector directly for any changes in service. Contact information for private trash and recycling collectors operating in Fairfax County is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/trash/disphaulers.htm.

If your trash collection service has been postponed until another day, please remove your trash containers from the curb in order to enhance the effectiveness of snow clearing operations and to avoid having your containers damaged or buried in snowbanks.

Government Offices Open 10 a.m. Friday, March 6

Posted at 5:18 a.m.; Updated at 5:51 a.m.

County and School Status

  • Fairfax County Government offices will open at 10 a.m. today, Friday, March 6. Employees have been granted unscheduled leave. Emergency service personnel should report as scheduled.
  • Fairfax County Public Schools are closed today, Friday, March 6. School Age Child Care (SACC) centers are closed.
  • The Fairfax County Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court will open on time.

Parks, Community and Recreation and Community Centers

  • If you have questions about Park Authority facilities, contact the site directly, call the Parks inclement weather line at 703-324-8661, TTY 711, or visit fairfaxcounty.gov/parks.
  • All Department of Neighborhood and Community Services community, senior and teen centers are closed today. 
  • The Reston Community Center and the McLean Community Center may be affected by the inclement weather. Call RCC at 703-476-4500, TTY 711, restoncommunitycenter.com or MCC at 703-790-0123, TTY 711, www.mcleancenter.org for their current operating status.

 Transportation: Connector, Fastran

  • Fairfax Connector bus service may be affected by the inclement weather. Check the Connector Web page at fairfaxconnector.com for the current operating status.
  • For information about FASTRAN, call 703-222-9764, TTY 711, or online at fairfaxcounty.gov/ncs/fastran.htm.

 Libraries

  • Fairfax County Public Libraries are closed today

View the public meetings calendar for any potential cancellations of public meetings of Fairfax County government Boards, Authorities or Commissions.

Emergency information is available on Fairfax County’s website (www.fairfaxcounty.gov), Facebook (www.facebook.com/fairfaxcounty), Twitter (www.twitter.com/fairfaxcounty), Fairfax Alerts at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts or by calling the Fairfax County Emergency Information Hotline at 703-817-7771, TTY 711. Fairfax County Government Radio (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/radio) will announce county government closing status and also broadcasts weather forecasts several times per hour.

Winter weather preparedness information can be found online at >www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/prepare/winter.

VDOT Says Roads Treacherous; Numerous Accidents Reported

Posted at 5:05 p.m.

Truck Accident

Police are receiving numerous accident reports as road conditions worsen.

Road conditions remain treacherous around the region this afternoon and there are multiple road closures throughout the county. Fairfax County 9-1-1 has received calls from drivers asking about abandoning their vehicles. These vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense. If you can safely move your vehicle out of travel lanes you can call a tow truck to get the vehicle home; any vehicle left for more than 12 hours or deemed a road hazard by the police will be towed.

Abandoned vehicles may also contribute to accidents and the owner will be ticketed in this event. Exiting your vehicle puts you and other drivers in danger. If your vehicle is stuck and you are in danger, call 9-1-1, but otherwise you should have it towed.

Please remain off the roads if possible. Visibility is limited, temperatures are dropping and conditions are further deteriorating.

More than 3,800 trucks continue to plow roads in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties according to VDOT. Staying off the roads allows crews to work safely. Crews are spreading salt and abrasives, as appropriate, concentrating their response efforts on the most heavily traveled routes. VDOT’s goal is to have all state-maintained roads passable within 48 hours after a storm ends. This storm; however, may deliver a second punch as temperatures drop to record levels and icy conditions remain likely into Friday.

Video: Please Stay Off the Roads

Posted at 3:30 p.m.

Dave McKernan, emergency management coordinator, is urging residents to stay off roads this afternoon. According to McKernan, there are significant road hazards as a result of the weather.

Our emergency operations center is monitoring numerous accidents and impassable roads due to icy conditions.

Trash and Recycling Collection for Fairfax County Customers Suspended Today

Posted at 9:05 a.m.

Due to unsafe road conditions, Fairfax County trash and recycling collection in sanitary districts (15 percent of county households) on Thursday collection routes has been suspended for today, March 5.

Thursday collection customers will receive trash and recycling collection on Friday, March 6, weather and road conditions permitting. Please make sure trash and recycling carts are accessible and not blocked in by snow to ensure collection.

You can check the trash/recycling county customer website for updated service information.

The impact of the winter weather may also be affecting the operations of private trash and recycling collectors. Customers of private service providers (more than 85 percent of county households) should contact their trash and recycling collector directly for any changes in service. Contact information for private trash and recycling collectors operating in Fairfax County is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/trash/disphaulers.htm.

If your trash collection service has been postponed until another day, please remove your trash containers from the curb in order to enhance the effectiveness of snow clearing operations and to avoid having your containers damaged or buried in snowbanks.

Police Accident Policy Now in Effect

Posted 7:35 a.m.

The Police Department’s accident policy is now in effect, meaning that if you are involved in a minor fender-bender, with NO injuries and NOT blocking the roadway, please move off of the roadway, exchange relevant information regarding driver’s license, vehicle registration information and automobile insurance coverage.

While under the accident policy, our Police Department will only be responding to accident reports that meet the following criteria:

  • Injuries.
  • Hit and run.
  • One or more vehicles are not drivable.
  • Active argument or conflict between the drivers.

If you call in a routine accident (703-691-2131, TTY 711) that does not meet the above criteria, you will be directed to exchange information with the other driver and to notify your insurance company.

If you do need to drive, have emergency supplies in your vehicle, including water, food, blankets, flashlight, charged smartphone and extra batteries at a minimum.

Government Offices and Courts Closed Thursday, March 5

Posted at 5:10 a.m.

County and School Status

  • Fairfax County Government offices are closed today, Thursday, March 5 and employees are granted emergency administrative leave. Emergency service personnel should report as scheduled.
  • The Fairfax County Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court also are closed today.
  • Fairfax County Public Schools are closed today, March 5. School Age Child Care (SACC) centers are closed.

Parks, Community and Recreation and Community Centers

  • If you have questions about Park Authority facilities, contact the site directly, call the Parks inclement weather line at 703-324-8661, TTY 711, or visit fairfaxcounty.gov/parks.
  • For Department of Neighborhood and Community Services programs and events visit fairfaxcounty.gov/ncs or call 703-324-4600, TTY 711.
  • The Reston Community Center and the McLean Community Center may be affected by the inclement weather. Call RCC at 703-476-4500, TTY 711, restoncommunitycenter.com or MCC at 703-790-0123, TTY 711, www.mcleancenter.org for their current operating status.

Transportation: Connector, FASTRAN

  • Fairfax Connector bus service may be affected by the inclement weather. Check the Connector Web page at fairfaxconnector.com for the current operating status.
  • For information about FASTRAN, call 703-222-9764, TTY 711, or online at fairfaxcounty.gov/ncs/fastran.htm.

View the public meetings calendar for any potential cancellations of public meetings of Fairfax County government Boards, Authorities or Commissions.

Emergency information is available on Fairfax County’s website (www.fairfaxcounty.gov), Facebook (www.facebook.com/fairfaxcounty), Twitter (www.twitter.com/fairfaxcounty), Fairfax Alerts at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts or by calling the Fairfax County Emergency Information Hotline at 703-817-7771, TTY 711. Fairfax County Government Radio (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/radio) will announce county government closing status and also broadcasts weather forecasts several times per hour.

Winter weather preparedness information can be found online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/prepare/winter.

Winter Storm Warning Issued for Fairfax County and Region

Posted at 3 p.m.

Apparently Old Man Winter isn’t ready to retire. It seems that he has more winter weather in store for us!

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter storm warning from midnight tonight until 9 pm. tomorrow, Thursday, March 5. A winter storm warning for heavy snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous. Roads will become snow covered and visibilities will drop to around a quarter-mile at times making travel dangerous.

Winter Storm Warning March 4, 2015

Traveling

With this forecast, you are reminded to get where you need to be before the weather gets bad.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reports that by midnight, more than 3,800 trucks will be staged along interstates, major roads and neighborhood streets. With the storm expected to begin as rain, however, crews will not pre-treat for this storm. They will treat roads with salt and sand during sleet and freezing rain, and begin to plow as the storm transitions to accumulating snow.

“We’re asking drivers to prepare now for a long couple of days,” said Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s district maintenance engineer for Northern Virginia. “It will be vital to stay off the roads tomorrow, as conditions will be treacherous during the storm. Crews will also need that room to clear snow quickly during the day, because frigid temperatures overnight and through the weekend will mean repeated refreeze of any accumulation left on the road.”

Forecast

snowflake-icon Tonight: Occasional rain before 2 a.m., then rain and sleet between 2-5 a.m., then rain, snow, and sleet after 5 a.m. Low around 27. North wind 7 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

snowflake-icon Thursday: Snow and sleet, becoming all snow after 8 a.m. Temperature falling to around 19 by 1 p.m. North wind 10 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. New snow and sleet accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.

snowflake-icon Thursday Night: Snow likely, mainly before 7 p.m. Cloudy during the early evening, then gradual clearing, with a low around 9. Wind chill values as low as -3. North wind around 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

weather forecast

What You Can Do

  • You are encouraged to stay off roads throughout the day tomorrow to provide crews as much room as possible to plow and treat roads.
  • You should park vehicles in driveways or on the odd-numbered side of the street to allow plows room to pass.
  • And when shoveling snow, remember to shovel snow to the right of your driveway as you face the road. This prevents snow from piling up when your street is plowed or re-plowed.

More information on preparing for this winter storm can be found on our website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/living/winter and www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency/hazards/winter-storm-snow-cold.htm.

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