After major flash flooding caused widespread damage on Monday (July 8), Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust shared how the county can better prepare for future storms and what steps are currently underway.
“It was horrific in certain areas,” Foust said. “It came by and went so fast.”
Foust said that while he wasn’t surprised by the damage from the flash flooding on Monday, it was the worst he has ever seen in Fairfax County.
Tysons Reporter talked to Foust about how work after the storm has been going around the Tysons area and what infrastructure improvements are needed to help the county weather the next big storm.
When the flooding started, Foust said he was inside his home during the brunt of the storm, waiting to get to his car parked outside. Eventually, Foust said he was able to get outside and drive to his office, which is nearby — “Pretty easy compared to what many had to go through,” he said.
Assessing the Damage
In an email to residents last night (Wednesday), Foust urged people affected by the storm to submit information online to a disaster damage database to help the county with its damage assessment. People can submit reports until Wednesday, July 24.
“While owners are responsible for repairs on their property, the county could use this data to pursue disaster aid through the federal government to the extent such aid is available,” Foust wrote.
The Town of Vienna also tweeted about the database, writing, “Damage reports may impact what — if any– federal disaster assistance may be made available.”
As for the cleanup efforts this week, Foust said, “The county staff performed extremely well.”
Road Work Underway
Foust said that several improvement projects are slated to help roads weather serious flooding in the future, including Tucker Avenue and Chesterbrook Road in McLean.
The Tucker Avenue project will address flooding along the avenue from Birch Street to where it deadends at the Pimmit Run stream. Project design is set to start this summer, he said.
“It’s almost scary what happens on that road when it rains hard,” he said because of the road’s incline may make it the worst road for flooding in the McLean District. “Not a meandering stream but a roaring river.”
The Chesterbrook project at the intersection of Chesterbrook Road and N. Albemarle Street is set to add a larger pipe for more water. While the Virginia Department of Transportation had said that the project may start in the fall, plans have not been finalized, he said.
In addition to the work on those local roads, Fouse said that the Route 7 widening project includes elevating the road where Dead Run Stream regularly floods Route 7.
Preparing for the Next Big Flood
Going forward, “a lot of things need to be done,” Foust said to minimize damage from another major storm.
McLean and the general area around Tysons were built before stormwater management requirements, which the county is now trying to superimpose with a new system, he said.
Foust said that as changing weather patterns could see severity increase for future storms, he wants the county to prioritize funding stormwater management projects and work with developers of infill projects, which develops vacant or under-used areas within existing urban areas, to better manage stormwater sites.
“The funding is never adequate,” Foust said Capital Improvement Program funding for stormwater management projects. “You do the best you can with the resources you have. For available resources, we need to prioritize stormwater management projects more than in the past.”
Whenever the next big flash flooding hits, Foust said that he hopes for more notice from forecasters.
“It’s one thing when you see it coming,” he said.
Dead Run Stream isn’t the only McLean waterway on the cusp of revitalization.
Bull Neck Run, a stream just north of Tysons, is nearing the end of project construction with completion scheduled for June.
Like the restoration finishing at Dead Run Stream, the Bull Neck Run restoration involves improving the ecological function of the stream and extracting nitrogen and phosphorous from the soil.
The idea is to make the stream valley more sustainable and safer for private property owners along the stream, local wildlife and the public using nearby trails.
The project will reduce flooding from the stream, and stabilize the stream banks. Part of the project involves creating new outlets for stormwater draining into the creek to reduce erosion and tree loss in the nearby forest.
The total cost of the project is $1.6 million, funded through the county’s stormwater service district.
While the project is scheduled to be completed in June, landscaping work at the site could continue through the fall. Visitors to the site are still encouraged to remain outside of active construction areas.
It’s an issue that town staff have been working for years to address, and solutions have been identified, but year after year have remained unfunded.
A report presented to the Vienna Town Council in December 2016 examined the state of Vienna’s sewer infrastructure, particularly at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Center Street N. in the center of the town.
The study found that there were places that experienced significant flooding where existing sewer infrastructure was unable to handle storm volume. Town staff confirmed that improvements suggested in the study were included in the CIP, but have yet to receive funding.
The report indicates that there are three major locations for flooding in three different areas. According to the report:
- In moderate storms, flooding first occurs along Center Street at the location of the N Condos building and Starbucks parking lot.
- In more intense storm events, flooding occurs in the area of the Freeman House Museum, at Church Street NW and Dominion Road NE.
- Flooding also occurs near the intersection of Mill Street NE and Ayr Hill Avenue.
The report notes that flooding at the Starbucks is generally seen as the first sign of storm sewer capacity issues. The report noted that the ponding at these issues is more indicative of capacity problems than issues with draining.
“The ponding in all three areas of concern is a result of storm sewer surcharge, rather than surface drainage issues,” the study said. “This is evidenced by the ponding that occurs during a storm event and the rapid dissipation of ponded water immediately after the rain intensity subsides.”
The study assessed every outfall and junction in downtown Vienna and found that the system is unprepared for handling severe storms.
“The flow capacity of portions of the existing storm sewer system is insufficient to carry the stormwater calculated for a 10-year frequency storm,” the study said.
Ten-year floods are floods that have a 10 percent chance of happening in any given year, though there is some concern that this type of descriptor can lead to a false sense of security for those in areas prone to flooding.
Crucial to any fix to the local sewers, the study said, would be preventing flooding at the Freeman House and Starbucks, which are most prone to flooding.
The report recommended clearing debris and obstructions to sewer flow but that more substantial improvements will be needed over time.
“Even with clean sewers, the flow capacity in the piped portion of the system is lacking in two general areas,” the study said. “Sewer system improvements will be needed if the system is expected to move the flows resulting from a ten-year frequency storm, without undue flooding.”
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