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What Happens if You Lose Power

Posted at 8:10 p.m.

Our emergency operations center is staffed this evening and we’ve been noticing a slow, but steady rise in the number of electrical meters being reported out at both Dominion Virginia Power (report outages to 1-866-DOM-HELP [366-4357]) and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (report outages at 1-888-335-0500).

The snow is expected to taper off soon — but winds are expected to pick up and sustain intensity overnight — and more outages and downed trees and power lines should be expected.

What happens if you do lose power tonight? Perhaps the better question is what not to do:flashlight

  • Use a flashlight only for emergency lighting. Never use candles.
  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal ­burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate the unit(s) away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

In addition:

  • Unplug electrical equipment. Spikes and surges could occur as power is restored, damaging equipment.
  • While you have electricity, be sure to charge any batteries you need to run portable electronic devices (such as cellphones) that you use regularly.
  • Make sure that your disaster supply kit is complete and that it can be found easily if the lights go out.
  • If you use well water, pre-plan by filling a bathtub with water for use with sanitation, etc.

You may also want to do some pre-planning for options should you and your family lose power late tonight — or even overnight. Are there friends you could stay with? Why not go ahead and reach out and check … just in case.

Dangerously Cold Temperatures and High Winds on the Way

Posted at 5:50 p.m.

Love is in the air, but as we posted on our Facebook page earlier today, so is the potential for dangerous wind chills (-15 degrees), frostbite, high winds (40-60 mph), power outages and some snow beginning around 6 p.m. today through Sunday afternoon. (forecast)

If you must go outside this evening, please bundle up. Also, remember to bring in pets and secure outdoor items. Plan to check in on homebound neighbors/friends too.

If you see someone outside and unsheltered, call 703-691-2131.

Dangerously cold temperatures and high winds

Possible Power Outages

With the high wind warning in effect tonight from 6 p.m. until 2 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, residents are advised that downed trees and power lines may result in power outages. Minor structural damage is possible and driving high profile vehicles in these conditions will be dangerous.

In case you lose electricity, be ready to report power outages.

With the potential for power outages, also be sure to charge your electronic devices — think your cellphone.

We’ll post additional information here as well as on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Stay connected and informed — and be sure to share with friends and family.

Temperatures and Wind Chill Bring Dangerous Conditions

Posted at 4:25 p.m.

A wind chill advisory is in effect from 10 p.m. this evening until 8 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday morning, Jan. 8. A wind chill advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chills. This can result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken. If you must venture outdoors, make sure you wear a hat and gloves.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for mostly cloudy conditions overnight, then gradually becoming clear, with a low around 8 degrees. Wind chill values will be as low as -5, with blustery, Northwest winds 15 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph.

What You Can Do

  • If you see an unsheltered person who may be at risk of hypothermia, call the police non-emergency phone line at 703-691-2131, TTY 711.
  • Fairfax County’s emergency homeless shelters have additional capacity during winter months to take in people overnight who are at risk of hypothermia. Emergency personnel will determine which shelter option is best in the situation. Learn more about our emergency shelters and hypothermia program.
  • You are encouraged to check in on elderly or other housebound people you may know to make sure they have enough heat and food.
  • With the cold temperatures, snow that fell Tuesday can refreeze and create hazardous icy conditions, including black ice, so drive cautiously and be careful walking outside.
  • Remember to clear your sidewalks of snow and ice so your neighbors and children can safety walk through the neighborhood. More details about shoveling snow can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/shovel.

Pets:

  • Because the temperatures predicted over the next few days may be deadly to pets, the animal shelter is offering temporary, emergency housing for cats, dogs and small companion animals. If you or someone you know needs to utilize this service, contact the shelter at 703-830-1100, extension 2, or call the police non-emergency number at 703-691-2131, TTY 711.
  • Pets, even those who typically live outdoors, should be brought inside; only take your pet outside for short bathroom breaks and do not leave your pet outdoors unattended. Also, make sure to provide access to non-frozen drinking water at all times.
  • If you care for feral, outdoor cats make sure they have access to shelter and follow these tips from the ASPCA to ensure outdoor cats are kept safe in cold weather:
  • Do not leave your pets in cars during cold weather. The inside of a car can act as a refrigerator and your pet can quickly freeze to death.

surviving winter weather infographic

Red Flag Warning in Effect Today From 11 a.m. Until 8 p.m.

Red Flag Warning

Posted at 10:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for gusty winds and low relative humidity in effect from 11 a.m. this morning to 8 p.m. this evening for portions of Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County.

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

  • Humidity: 20 to 30 percent late this morning through early this afternoon.
  • Winds: Northwest 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.
  • Fuel moisture is less than 8 percent.

Get the latest Fairfax County weather and sign up for weather alerts from the Community Emergency Alert Network (CEAN).

Red Flag Warning in Effect from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Posted at 7 a.m.

Red Flag WarningA Red Flag Warning is in effect from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, Thursday, March 13, for Fairfax County and Northern Virginia.

A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

A National Weather Service (NWS) wind advisory also remains in effect until 11 a.m. this morning.

Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies with a high near 35. It will be breezy with a northwest wind 22 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 47 mph. Northwest winds continue tonight, 9 to 14 mph, becoming light and variable after midnight with temperatures around 20.

Get more on the weather by listening to Fairfax County Government Radio, which broadcasts NWS forecasts several times per hour.

Deep Freeze Preparation for People, Pets and Property

Posted 10:18 a.m.

Baby, it’s going to be cold outside!

Our area is under a wind chill advisory from the National Weather Service beginning at 6 p.m. Monday until 6 p.m. Tuesday. The temperature and winds will make it feel like it’s 5 to 15 degrees below zero. Here’s what you can do to beat the freeze:

For People

  • If you see someone unsheltered in this extreme cold weather, call 703-691-2131, TTY 711. Learn more about our emergency shelters and hypothermia program.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. If you must be outside, either for work or leisure, take precautions such as dressing in layers. Watch this short video for tips, especially for advice on when to go to a hospital:

For Pets

  • Do NOT leave pets outside!
  • Because the freezing temperatures may be deadly to pets, our animal shelter is offering temporary emergency housing for cats, dogs, and small companion animals. If you or someone you know needs to utilize this service, contact the shelter at 703-324-0208, TTY 711, or e-mail FCPDPetResources@fairfaxcounty.gov.
  • We have more safety tips for pets in cold weather.

For Property

Safety tips to protect your homes from winter fires

Derecho: One Year Later

Posted 4:13 p.m.

This happened one year ago:

Overnight June 29, 2012, into the early morning hours of Saturday, June 30, Fairfax County and the National Capital Region learned first-hand what a Derecho storm could do to our community.

Just after midnight in Fairfax County, there were thousands without power, hundreds of trees down, roads were closed, the county’s 9-1-1 center was affected by a power loss at a Verizon facility and a state of emergency was declared for Virginia and Fairfax County.

tree damage from derechoNot only did the storm cause havoc when it hit, but many suffered through extreme heat without electricity for several days.

As we reflect on our experiences from that time, it’s also a good reminder that we need to be prepared at all times for any type of emergency or weather event.

Fairfax County Preparation

Since the Derecho, the county has taken numerous steps. Our Board of Supervisors has been involved collectively as well as individually in their districts promoting emergency preparedness.  Our emergency management office created an online disaster damage database to allow county residents to report damage caused by emergencies like the derecho, as well as hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes, fires, snow or other disasters.

Through a survey of residents and businesses, the county has improved our communications outreach. And our 9-1-1 and public safety officials submitted official comments to the Federal Communications Commission’s Derecho report and were involved with regional work on the issue with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Listen as Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova discusses progress with Verizon since last year:

What You Told Us

After the storm last year, we conducted a survey about communications. Nearly 6,000 respondents answered questions and generated nearly 18,000 individual comments, which provided us with some great insight for future emergencies. Here’s a snapshot of the results:

Derecho storm survey infographic

What You Can Do to Prepare

As we enter the summer season, which can bring extreme heat and severe thunderstorms, here’s a four step plan of action to take to prepare for the next weather event:

  1. Buy flashlights and extra batteries this weekend so you’re ready if you lose power. You may also want to consider purchasing a generator in case you lose electricity for extended periods.
  2. Sign up for emergency alerts, including severe weather alerts, that can be delivered to you by email and text.
  3. Become digitally prepared. As the survey shows above, many of you will be dependent on your mobile device for information, so download our app and follow our digital tips.
  4. Put together a plan. “Planning” often times doesn’t seem important or perhaps you think it’s too hard to do. Start with the Ready NOVA Emergency Preparedness Planner, a free, online tool that makes it easy to put together an emergency plan for your family.
    • Be sure to include plans for the most vulnerable in your family or neighborhood. If there are access or functional needs, register with us so we can contact you directly after an incident.
    • And don’t forget plans for your pets. Try to think of places they can go, supplies they need and more. Pets are such an important part of many of our lives, but they need plans, too.

Planning and preparing doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming or expensive. As you’re enjoying your weekend and the upcoming July 4th holiday, take a conscientious effort and set aside time to follow these four ideas and more.

Whatever it takes… make the time and take the steps to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe when the next emergency strikes our community.

Severe Storms Predicted Between 3-4 p.m.

Posted 2:06 p.m.

From our afternoon conference call with the National Weather Service:

  • The worst of the storm will hit our area between 3-4 p.m. Not all areas of our large county may be affected.
  • The most severe aspects of the storm (very strong winds) are predicted to last about 30-40 minutes.
  • The winds are the biggest concern, with gusts up to 70 mph.
  • We could receive 1-2 inches of rain, which could lead to some localized flooding.

What you can do:

  • Secure outdoor items if you’re at home.
  • Keep a close eye on watches, warnings and forecasts.
  • View map of roads that historically flood and be aware of flood threats while driving. Keep children away from creeks as water may rise rapidly (we’ve had loss of life before).
  • Keep your phones charged in case you lose power. If you lose power, contact your provider (Dominion or NOVEC).
  • If trees come down, stay away from any downed wires. Here’s who to contact if a tree falls.
  • Only call 911 in an emergency. Call 703-691-2131, TTY 711, for public safety non-emergencies.

Listen to Dave McKernan, our Office of Emergency Management coordinator, discuss the storms in less than one minute:

Today’s Weather: What You Need to Know

Posted 6:52 a.m.

 There are two main lines of thunderstorms associated with today’s weather that may affect Fairfax County.

The first line will be between 8 and 10 a.m. and could impact the morning commute. However, this will be the less severe of the two lines of storms. The second storm will be in the area between 2 and 8 p.m. and could produce gusts in excess of 60-80 MPH. The storms are fast moving and should not last in any one area very long.

Sustained winds over the course of the day will be between 15-25 MPH, with gusts up to 35 MPH. Total rainfall is expected to be between 1-2 inches. Isolated tornado threats are still possible for Fairfax County, however the higest risk will be along the I-95 corridor between Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

In case you missed it yesterday, here are 7 tips to prepare for this storm.

Potentially Dangerous Storms Loom for Thursday; 7 Ways to Prepare Now

Posted 3:53 p.m.

Potentially dangerous thunderstorms are possible in our area Thursday. The National Weather Service is calling for possible heavy rains, flooding, tornadoes and strong winds that could pose numerous challenges.

Take this threat seriously. While nothing like the wrath of last year’s derecho storm is predicted at this time, this line of storms may cause more havoc than a usual summer thunderstorm. There are a few things you can do today and this evening to prepare:

1.) Secure Loose Items

Bring in or secure any loose items outside your house or on your condo balcony. High winds could cause those objects to fly around and injure people or damage property.

2.) Storm Drains

Check rain gutters and storm drains. We’ve had a lot of rain in recent days and with more on the way, flooding is possible, so make sure drains are clear.

3.) Digital Preparedness

Prepare digitally! Power outages are possible, so have your devices fully charged. Here are 10 more tips to help with digital preparedness.

4.) Power Outage Supplies

Have enough batteries, flashlights, radios and other things you may need for a power outage.

5.) Report Power Outages

Be ready to report power outages to your provider: Dominion Virginia Power 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), TTY 711; NOVEC 1-888-335-0500 or 703-335-0500, TTY 711.

6.) Stay Alert and Informed

Weather forecasts can vary, so stay informed and keep an eye on changing weather conditions. Pay particular attention to tornado watches (conditions favorable) and warnings (tornado sighted, seek shelter).

  • Sign up for our emergency text alerts/emails. If you live in the Huntington, Belle View and New Alexandria areas of the county, you should choose the “Riverwatch” group for information about possible flooding.
  • Follow @fairfaxcounty on Twitter; use #ffxstorm to share what you’re seeing locally.
  • This blog will have updates as events warrant, so if you’re not already subscribed by email or RSS, please do so by visiting the top right column of this page.
  • Follow local media reports, credible social media accounts and other information sources for the latest alerts, warnings and protective actions.

7.) Share Information

Share this information with coworkers, neighbors, your faith community and more. Use the sharing tools below or print this information. Help someone, too, such as an elderly neighbor in securing loose items or checking storm drains.

 

Audio Tips:

Gusty Winds and Flash Flood Watch Issued

Posted at 3:48 p.m.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Flash Flood Watch for Fairfax County through late tonight. The forecast indicates warm temperatures surging ahead of a cold front will fuel several weather threats today and tonight:

  • Strong winds. Winds will steadily increase today with possible gusts near 40 mph by this evening. These damaging wind gusts could cause downed trees and electric lines.
  • Heavy rain. While total rainfall is only expected to be 1 to 2 inches, it will likely fall in a short period of time and this could cause flash flooding. Those in low lying areas of the county need to monitor the situation and be prepared to move vehicles or families to higher ground should the need arise.

5 Tips to be Ready

  1. Get where you need to be before the weather gets bad. If you have a high profile vehicle like a SUV, they are more sensitive to strong wind gusts.
  2. Don’t drive through high water – remember to “Turn around, don’t drown.”
  3. Exercise extreme caution at intersections. If traffic signals lose power, remember to treat that as a 4-way stop, with the driver on the right having the right-of-way.
    • Proceed with caution only when traffic permits.
    • Enter intersections only when it is safe to do so, using turn signals to let other motorists know your intentions.
    • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
    • Watch out for and obey police officers directing traffic within intersections.
  4. Have flash lights readily available — with extra batteries — and make sure your cellphones are fully charged. 
  5. Check on your neighbors, especially if your neighborhood loses electricity.

 

Stay Informed

Be sure to sign up for free weather alerts from CEAN, the Community Emergency Alert Network. And if you need them, here’s a list of important phone numbers that may be helpful.

Today is the First Day of Winter

Posted at 11:15 a.m.

Today, Friday, Dec. 21, is a big day! According to the Mayan Prophecy, today marks the end of the world, but today is also the official start of winter.

Assuming you don’t believe that the world ends today — more from NASA on that — you may be interested in the beginning of the winter solstice. And today’s weather in Fairfax County actually looks and feels like winter, with temperatures only in the low 40s today and for the next several days. In addition, winds will be fairly substantial today and this weekend, with gusts up to 55 mph tomorrow. A High Wind Watch is in effect tomorrow morning through Saturday afternoon.

High winds have the potential to bring down trees, power lines, signs and awnings, and can turn unsecured objects — like outdoor holiday decorations — into dangerous projectiles. To prevent damage and injury, bring loose items indoors and fully secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture or garbage cans.

What else can you do as we experience high winds?

  • Remove any dead trees or overhanging branches and objects in your yard, patio or balcony that could blow away.
  • Strong winds can make driving difficult, especially for those driving high profile vehicles and anyone driving across bridges and overpasses. If you’re driving, maintain a firm grip on the wheel and keep a safe distance between vehicles.
  • If you see a downed power line, call 9-1-1 and also report the downed line(s) to your local utility provider. Do not try to free lines or remove debris yourself.
  • Make sure you have some extra batteries on hand and are prepared in case of power outages. Be sure to report outages to your provider.

Take a few minutes today to prepare for high winds, and as we “officially” start winter, download the National Weather Service publication (PDF) “Winter Storms: The Deceptive Killers” for lots on information on how you can keep your family safe during the coming winter months.

Tips for Power Outages

Posted 2:17 p.m.

As the weather is about to get much worse and the winds reach tropical storm speeds for 24 hours, power outages are inevitable.

Remember the derecho with 24 minutes of wind? We’re about to experience 24 hrs dangerous wind/conditions.

  • Save important phone numbers to your phone or write them down, especially your power company.
  • Make sure you have a battery powered radio. We will work with radio media
  • View tips from Dominion Virginia Power and NOVEC
    • Dominion Virginia Power outages and downed wires: 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), TTY 711; view outage map
    • NOVEC (Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative) outages and downed wires: 1-888-335-0500 or 703-335-0500, TTY 711; view outage reports
  • Stay away from downed wires as they may be live with electricity.
  • Do not use candles as they may pose a fire threat.
  • Be sure to operate generators safely.
  • Under the declaration of emergency, the use of generators is authorized beyond 9 p.m. until the emergency is lifted. They can run for several straight days during the emergency. After the state of emergency is lifted, regular noise ordinance rules must be followed.
  • An electrical power outage will affect the safe storage of refrigerated and frozen foods. Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not stored properly refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed.  In order to protect these foods from spoilage and save them for your use during the emergency, follow these guidelines.  

10 Ways to Get Ready for Hurricane Sandy

Posted 12:56 p.m.

Rainfall potential of Hurricane Sandy

National Weather Service rainfall potential of Hurricane Sandy for the next 1-5 days.

Hurricane Sandy continues to be a major threat to our area and could lead to substantial impacts in the next few days. Virginia has already declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm.

To put it simply: we need you to prepare.

The storm’s track is not yet certain, but the National Weather Service models this morning suggest a likely scenario of 4-6 inches of rain, tropical storm winds, downed trees/power lines and flooding for possibly multiple days. More details will become available later today and Saturday from the National Weather Service about timing and impact.

But right now, we have time to get ready.

What you need to know and do:

1.)    Supplies: Get your supplies – water, medicines, canned food, cash, pet food and more. View more suggestions for emergency supply kits. We strongly recommend that you be prepared with at least three days of supplies.

2.)    Gas: Fill your car’s gas tank. Gas stations will be in short supply in a power outage.

3.)    Generators: If you have a generator or plan to buy one, please be familiar with safety tips.

4.)    Food Safety:  Power outages and flooding may happen as a result of a tropical storm or hurricane, so have a plan for keeping food safe. Have a cooler on hand to keep food cold, and group food together in the freezer so it stays cold longer.

5.)    Outdoor Items: Plan to secure all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.

6.)    Trees: Remove dead limbs on trees that could fall on your property (home, car, land).

7.)    Leaves: Clear leaves from storm drains, gutters and other areas that, if clogged, could cause flooding.

8.)    Weather Forecasts: Pay close attention to weather forecasts for the latest storm track. We will provide guidance as needed. Purchase or charge up your weather radio. If you have a weather radio that uses SAME codes, Fairfax County’s SAME code is 051059.

9.)    Tech Ready: View our Digital Preparedness Kit, which is an important way to stay informed and connected before, during and after an emergency.

10.) Phone Numbers: Save important phone numbers to your phone or write them down, especially your power company. Always report a power outage.

Please share this information with your family, friends and co-workers so our whole community can be better prepared.

3 Ways to Prepare for Hurricane Sandy

Posted 4:44 p.m.

Hurricane Sandy continues its move north and the National Weather Service reports it will impact the Washington region. However, the exact impact and timing are not yet known. The range of impacts could be low, such as minor coastal flooding, to significant if there’s a direct hit, which is still within the cone of uncertainty. With a direct hit, we would experience significant flooding, power outages and tropical storm winds.

At conference call with regional governments this afternoon, the National Weather Service says the most likely scenario for our area right now is a slow, long-lasting system with tropical storm winds, heavy rain/flooding and moderate tidal flooding. The National Weather Service will not have a definitive scenario until at least Saturday.

So while it’s too early to identify path and impacts, it’s never too early to get ready, especially with the uncertainty surrounding this storm.

There are a few things you can do now in advance of the storm. We need the whole community — families, businesses, nonprofits, faith communities and other key groups — to prepare:

1.)     Get Emergency Supplies

  • Buy extra water. One gallon of water per person (and pet) per day is recommended for drinking and sanitation.
  • Buy an extra bag (or cans) of food for your pet.
  • Withdraw some extra cash from your bank or ask for cash back at a grocery store so you can make purchases in case there are power outages.
  • Review your infant and young children supplies essential to you as a parent or someone who may be taking care of a young child.
  • Pickup an extra package or two of the most commonly used batteries in your home.
  • Purchase extra over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin or children’s medications you frequently use.

2.)    Clear Leaves From Storm Drains.

It’s fall and our trees are showing off their reds and oranges, but many leaves have hit the ground. Keep storm drains clear in case we receive inches of rain. If you live within a homeowner’s association or apartment complex check in to see if they plan to clear common areas.

3.)    Stay Informed

  • Share this blog post with your family/friends/coworkers and ask them to subscribe to posts by email. This blog will provide updates throughout the storm.
  • Sign up for our Community Emergency Alert Network text/email updates that will provide weather alerts and other critical information.
  • If you use social media sites, then follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Be an information ambassador for us and share/retweet updates. If using Twitter, help us see local tweets by using the hashtag #ffxstorm
  • Keep up to date with local conditions – follow TV and radio reports from your area, or visit http://www.weather.gov (http://mobile.weather.gov on your phone) for the latest forecast.
  • Download our county mobile apps with emergency information and get the American Red Cross “Hurricane” appAndroid, Apple.

For more tips, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency.

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