Sunday, August 28, 2011

Power Outage Information

If you would like to see the status of Dominion Power Outages in Northern Virginia, you can click below for a larger version of the map:

Currently Dominion expects to restore service to the majority of effected customers in the next 24 hours.

Information on reporting outages is in my post below.

Feel free to contact my office if you have problems:

Office 571.249.4484

Hurricane Irene Information

Here's the report I just received from the Virginia Emergency Operations Center at 10:00 A.M.
Presidential Emergency Declaration
· At Governor McDonnell’s request, Virginia received a pre-landfall federal emergency declaration. FEMA has made federal aid available to Virginia to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Irene.
· The President’s action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the counties of Accomack, Northampton, Isle of Wight, James City, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland and New Kent and the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

Impacts in Virginia
· Three fatalities, one in Newport News, one in Brunswick County and one in Chesterfield County have been confirmed in Virginia as a result of Irene.
· About 945,000 customers are without power statewide as of 9 a.m.: 884,723 Dominion; 58,793 co-ops.
· Residents in affected areas should be prepared for extended power outages of up to a week or more.
· No “sustained” hurricane force winds were recorded in Virginia. Hurricane ‘gusts” were recorded inland and not at the coast. Gusts: Mathews County/Gwynns Island – 83 mph; Williamsburg – 76 mph. Tropical storm force “gusts”: Henrico County – 71 mph; Virginia Beach – 69 mph; Wachapreague – 66 mph.
· Storm surge was less than forecast. The maximum reported surge was 7.5 feet at Sewells Point. Levels were .5 feet below the record 1933 surge.
· Heaviest rainfall occurred inland, not at the coast. More than 15” of rain fell between Franklin and Emporia in the Route 58/Route 460 corridor.
· River flood forecast: Blackwater River at Franklin will crest at 20.6 feet Tuesday (major flood stage); Nottoway River at Sebrell will crest at 20.1 feet Tuesday (moderate flood state)

Transportation Information
· People are urged to stay home so that emergency crews can clean up roads and ensure that they are safe for travel.
· Statewide, about 238 state-maintained roads are closed.
· The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel reopened at 7:15 this morning.
· The Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk remains closed. The Downtown Tunnel is open.
· VDOT has closed the Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk. The tunnel will reopen to traffic as soon as conditions improve and it is safe to do so.
· The Norris Bridge on Route 3 in Lancaster and Middlesex Counties is open.
· The Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge on Route 301 between Maryland and Virginia is open.
· The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is open.
· Real-time roads closures and traffic conditions are available by calling 511 or going to

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

You may have heard that yesterday, Governor McDonnell declared a state of emergency throughout Virginia in anticipation of Hurricane Irene hitting the Commonwealth this weekend.

The storm is projected to reach us sometime on Saturday, but there are several things you should do to prepare before then.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has a website with some great resources on preparing for hurricanes(or any sort of disaster or emergency).

There are a couple key points on preparation:
  • Put together an emergency preparedness kit. A supply of non-perishable food, clean water and a flashlight can go a long way to help people cope with any emergency situation.
  • Communicate with your friends and family- come up with an emergency plan. Know whether or not you need to evacuate, where you can go and where you'll meet your family.
  • Stay informed. Make sure you're aware of any evacuations, where to go for assistance and what the weather conditions are expected to be.
In the event that you or your neighbors lose electrical service, call Dominion Power at:

If you are experiencing extremely long outages, please do not hesitate to contact my office so we can contact our Dominion liason at:


You can also contact my office by email at My office will be monitoring any outages and emergency response during the duration of the storm and it's aftermath.

If you have any other problems after the Hurricane also feel free to contact us. For example, the Bureau of Insurance can help facilitate the processing of insurance claims. We also have liasons with VDOT and Verizon. Please contact my office with any problems.

As always, please avoid unnecessary travel during inclement weather and be sure to check in with your neighbors who may have difficulty dealing with the effects of the storm.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Primary Day in Virginia

Today, August 23, 2011 in primary day in Virginia. It is also the day for all independent candidates to file their papers to run and for all parties to declare their nominees not decided in a primary.

Normally, Virginia primaries are in early June, but every ten years they are delayed due to legislative redistricting.

In Mount Vernon, there is a primary for the 30th State Senate seat. If you live in the following precincts, you need to vote.

Grosvenor, Belleview, Huntington, Bellehaven, Belleview, Marlan, Hollin Hall (partial), Waynewood, Fort Hunt, Woodley (partial), Whitman, Westgate, and Hayfield

If you need to check your polling place, you can check here:

The polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Virginia's primaries are open to all registered voters.

Primaries are your chance to have a voice in who your candidates are for public office. Make sure you vote tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weed Warriors Attack the GWP!

Invasive species are really starting to clog up right of ways and county land in our area. The last few times I've hiked through Paul Spring, it's been a mess. It was much clearer when I was a kid. Parts of the County's Paul Spring property along Fort Hunt Road is also cloaked with invasives. The George Washington Memorial Parkway is also getting especially bad (see picture at right) and with the Federal Government budget situation, it is not going to get any better.

That's why I was excited to see the the Mount Vernon Citzen's Council's Environment Committee organizing a group to go through the U.S. Park Service's Weed Warrior Program on September 10 at 10:00 to 2:00 p.m.

Once certified, they are going to organize teams to head out and attack one of our community's greatest assets, the George Washington Parkway and Bike Trail. Flyer is below (click to enlarge).

Contact Betsy Martin at if you want to carpool up or do the training with other friends from Mt. Vernon!

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Analysis Highlights 44th District Health & Poverty

Two months ago, I attended the Medical Society of Northern Virginia's Legislative Breakfast and watched an excellent preview of the Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax's Community Health Assessment for Fairfax County. You can read more about it here. They recently came out with their final assessment that you can read here. I have cut and pasted a few slides below (click on them to enlarge).

First, to understand the statistics relative to the (new) 44th Delegate District you need to understand a couple datapoints. The 44th District is more diverse than Fairfax County. In Fairfax County, Black and Hispanic households are disproportionately affected by poverty and 13.8% of Fairfax County residents are living at less than 200% of Federal Poverty Level ($44K/yr. for a family of four). Therefore, in the 44th District, that percentage is higher. This is easy to see if you simply look at it graphically below (click to enlarge).
This translates to a higher uninsured population. Eleven percent of Fairfax County's foreign born citizen population does not have health insurance and thirty six percent of our non-citizen foreign born population. Five percent of Fairfax County's native born population is uninsured.

That translates in to more emergency room visits and more emergency rooms visits for non-acute illnesses for residents in the 44th District. People who have no way of paying for their health care often have to resort to hospital emergency rooms. This is one of the most expensive forms of health care and we all end up paying for it in the end. Patients do not have a regular doctor or "medical home" and do not get ongoing preventive and other care. See the next two charts.

In Fairfax County, Hispanic 8th-12th Graders reported feels of depression at rates 50 % higher than the rate of white children. Black children reported feelings of depression about 25% higher. Surprisingly, suicide rates among whites and blacks was double the rate for hispanics for individuals age 15-24.

Lastly, the survey has this chart regarding low birthweight clients by zipcode.

The bottom lines from the survey:

  • "Segments of the population experience a disproportionate share of adverse social conditions and poor health outcomes." Page 51

  • "Substantially higher emergency department use rates for basic medical services by residents from communities with poor socioeconomic conditions - Route 1 Corridor, Bailey's Crossroads/Culmore Area, Southeastern Fairfax County." Page 52.

  • Major communicable disease disparities (HIV, TB, STD's). Page 53.

  • Major maternal health disparities (teen pregnancy, neonatal deaths, low birth weights and infant death rates were higher in varous subgroups). Page 54.

  • Major cause of death disparities. Page 55.

Their next step is to identify strategic issues and to formulate goals and strategies. Their next meeting is September 27, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, Conference Rooms 2/3.

Many people do not realize the breadth, depth, or consequences of the economic problems in my district. Some of these statistics really brought it home and demonstrate the importance of sustaining programs like Medicaid, TANFF, and Child Support Enforcement in Fairfax County along with continuing to support other private programs such as the Medical Care for Children Partnership that I blogged about here or the Healthy Families Program. Without them, the bottom would fall out of these communities.

This does not even begin to address the effects poor healthcare has on academic performance or long-term quality of life - they are all correlated. It reminded me of the Yale Medical student, Jorge Ramallo, who keynoted this year's MCCP banquet and by telling us how the health insurance provided by MCCP gave him and his siblings pediatric well-child visits and gave his mother peace of mind that allowed him to achieve his potential. If we would only seriously address these problems, we would go a long way to helping everyone in our community realize their full potential.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Potomac River Gets a "D"

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River is charged with protecting the Potomac River. The Potomac River Basin has 5 million people - 75% of which live in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

The 44th District is one of the few legislative seats that actually touches the Potomac River although the basin probably takes in at least one-third of the General Assembly. In other words, the 44th is one of the areas at the receiving end of everyone else....
The Potomac River's annual grading is done by Ecocheck which is a joint project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Maryland for Environmental Science. They score the Potomac River on six metrics - three water quality indicators and three biotic indicators:
  1. Chlorophyll
  2. Dissolved oxygen
  3. Water clarity
  4. Aquatic Grasses
  5. Phytoplankton
  6. Bentic (bottom) communities

This year, both the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River took a step backwards. The Potomac backslid from a C to a D and the Chesapeake went to a C-. It was both systems first decline in four years. The Potomac grade reversed because of severe storms and high streamflows during the spring and early summer resulting in significant sediment deposits flowing into the creeks. Every single indicator declined. Poor water quality, ruins biotic indicators which resultingly hurts our fisheries.

All of this underscores the importance of getting Virginia's stormwater management under control. I have written before on this blog about the quality of Mount Vernon's steams.

The Dixie Pig, Plastic Bags & Mt. Vernon's Watersheds (Nov. 18, 2010)The Dixie Pig, Cleaning Up Quander Brook (May 9, 2010)

Quander Brook is biologically dead. One neighbor calls it a natural toilet bowl because of the stormwater that hits it during rain events. Paul Spring has fewer fish in it than I remember as a kid. Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek are full of trash and you can barely see inches below the water surface.

During our last session, I also argued against hiding pollution data during the session, but we created a Freedom of Information Act exemption for compliance data provided provided by polluters.

Sooner or later we need to get serious about controlling water pollution or the Potomac River will continue to suffer.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to School Sales Tax Holiday

It's that time of year again - just as in previous years, the Commonwealth is sponsoring a sales tax holiday as parents and students begin to prepare for the start of another school year. The sales tax holiday will run this weekend, August 5-7.

Please be sure to go out and patronize some of our local businesses who will reinvest your capital in our community.

The holiday applies to the following items:
  • All school supplies priced under $20

  • Most clothing and footwear under $100
This includes the following: Binder pockets, Binders, Blackboard Chalk,Book bags, Calculators, Cellophane tape, Clay and glazes, Compasses, Composition books, Crayons, Dictionaries and thesauruses, Dividers, Erasers (including dry erase marker erasers and dry erase marker cleaning solutions), Folders; expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila, Glue, paste, and paste sticks, Highlighters, Index cards, Index card boxes, Legal pads, Lunch boxes, Markers (including dry erase markers and dry erase marker kits), Musical instruments, musical instrument accessories, and replacement items for musical instruments, Notebooks, Paintbrushes for artwork, Paints (acrylic, tempera, and oil), Paper; loose leaf ruled notebook paper, copy paper, graph paper, tracing paper, manila paper, colored paper, poster board and construction paper, Pencil boxes and other school supply boxes, Pencil sharpeners, Pencils, Pens, Protractors, Reference books, Reference maps and globes, Rulers, Scissors, Sheet music, Sketch and drawing pads, Textbooks, Watercolors, Workbooks; and Writing Tablets.

You can find a list of frequently asked questions on the Department of Taxation's website here. The sales tax holiday applies to everyone- not just those preparing for school, so be sure to head out and take advantage of the savings.

Monday, August 1, 2011

National Champion Tree in the 44th!

Last week, the American Horticultural Society (AHS) announced that American Forests had declared that a massive Osage orange tree (maclura pomifera) at their headquarters had been declared a National Champion.

The AHS is located just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway just past the stone bridge along the Potomac River on East Boulevard Drive. It's property was originally the headquarters for one of George Washington's five farms - the one he called River Farm. It's a great property and open to the public during business hours. It's also where I was married! A picture showing where the tree is on the property is on the right.

The tree is 58 feet tall and has a crown spread of 90 feet and is at least 200 years old. Given that Osage orange trees are not native to Virginia (they are from Oklahoma through Texas) no one is sure how it got there. The former champion was at Patrick Henry's property in Hanover County. Some hypothesize that Native Americans transplated these trees before colonists arrived although our part of Fairfax County along the Potomac River was heavily populated by colonists by 1700.

You can read the American Horticultural Society's press release here. You can look the tree up in the National Register of Big Trees here.