Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


Enough already! You can turn off the snow now! Send it to Vancouver where they could use it for the Winter Olympics.

The unprecedented winter storms tested our patience and preparedness, but also created bright spots. Countless neighbors helped each other clear driveways, do last-minute shopping and share meals. Some families also shared sleds and snowboards. On a hill in my neighborhood, children were completely fearless as they flung themselves down the icy tracks left by snowplows. One young lad rooted through the snowbanks to find his big sister’s missing glove, which had flown off during a downhill run.

Two-foot snow depths were particularly challenging for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the state agency that maintains and operates roads in Fairfax County. State and contracted crews cleared interstates, primary and secondary roadways before getting into subdivisions. A major problem is, where do you put two feet (or more) of snow? It is not unusual to see walls of snow six feet high along some roadways. It reminds me of driving through the Santiam Pass in Oregon as a child. Snowplows with blowers kept the all-season road open, but the snow levels might be 15 or 20 feet along the road, not unlike the soundwalls along the Beltway today. By Tuesday, many streets were still waiting for a plow, with a forecast, unbelieveably, for another 10 to 20 inches before the end of the week.

In Mason District, the heavy snowfall caused a roof collapse at the Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Station Number 10. The 3 a.m. collapse damaged the building and some apparatus, but the dozen or so career firefighters on duty were able to escape without incident. A similar concern was present at Annandale Fire Station Number 8, where the operations were moved to the adjoining bingo hall just in case the weight of the snow on the roof became too much for the older structure. Most flat roofs are supported by bearing walls, but the bays in fire stations (and airplane hangers at Dulles) need larger open areas to accommodate equipment. Both stations are owned by Volunteer Fire Companies, and staffed by Fairfax County professional personnel. The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has emergency coverage plans in place, and will be aided by the Alexandria and Arlington Fire Departments, if needed, under mutual aid agreements between the jurisdictions.

Mason District lost another treasure with the passing of Irene Shuman, who was on her annual winter visit to Puerto Rico when she died as the result of an accidental fall. Irene, an energetic 93 year-old, was a moving force in her Glen Forest neighborhood – volunteering with her civic association, her church and, near and dear to her heart, the Glen Forest Pool Association, which she ran until nearly 90. Irene threw a great party for her 80th birthday in 1997, and everyone had such a good time, she threw another one at 90, with all her family, neighbors and friends. Everybody loved Irene!

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov