Posted at 1:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a hazardous weather outlook for Fairfax County and much of the National Capital Region, calling for thunderstorms likely late this afternoon and evening. NWS notes that some of the thunderstorms may become severe with damaging wind gusts; large hail and an isolated tornado are also possible. (complete forecast)
With recent rains, we have seen many flooded roads in the county making travel dangerous. Dave McKernan, coordinator of emergency management, encourages you to turn around, don’t drown.
It is often difficult to tell how deep water may be, especially at night. Just 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. 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.
In addition, please remember to keep children away from creeks and streams as the water may rise quickly. And if you are in a low area or near a small stream or drainage ditch, expect water to rise rapidly. Stay safe and head to higher ground if needed.
Finally, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reports that property owners are responsible for the maintenance of drainage facilities, such as ditches and channels, on their property when the facilities are not part of a VDOT-owned drainage easement or a county easement. Property owners are responsible for keeping stormwater free-flowing through their land, by keeping grass clippings, leaves and other debris from accumulating. This will help to avoid water from ponding on the road, which could cause a major safety hazard and pavement damage.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- You can contact Dominion Virginia Power at 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
- Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) customers should call 1-888-335-0500.
- Additional emergency phone numbers
With the potential for power outages, also be sure to charge your electronic devices — think your cellphone.
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.
- 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.
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.
Posted at 7 a.m.
A 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.
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:
- 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:
- 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.
- Today will be your last chance to protect your pipes from freezing or bursting. Here are more details about what to do to protect your pipes.
- Fill up your car gas tanks – there’s less of a chance of gas lines freezing (and it takes longer idling to get the cars warm before traveling).
- If you plan to use alternative heating sources such as fireplaces or portable heaters, please take a quick minute to review these safety tips for the safety of your family. Put a freeze on winter fires:
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.
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:
What You Can Do to Prepare
- 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.
- Sign up for emergency alerts, including severe weather alerts, that can be delivered to you by email and text.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.