Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


After an earthquake and a hurricane within five days, perhaps we could have expected the biblical plagues or boils as the next crisis.

The rain that fell without let up last Wednesday and Thursday left some imagining building an ark, but it was inflatable boats used in swift water rescues that were the craft of choice for first responders throughout Fairfax County. Longtime firefighters and police told me they could not remember a rainstorm of such magnitude. Even Hurricane Agnes in 1972 had lower water levels than the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee last week. Flash floods were common: water rose in a matter of minutes, wreaked havoc on homes and roadways, and then receded almost as quickly, leaving debris, buckled pavement, and soggy carpets as reminders of nature’s power.

Storm water is an increasing focus for environmental protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Indeed, reducing urban storm water with green roofs, rain barrels and rain gardens, stream restoration, and state-of-the-art storm water controls are major implementation measures contained in the Phase II Watershed Improvement Plans (WIP II) imposed on localities by federal and state agencies. But no amount of green roofs and rain gardens would have been able to control the storm water run-off the region experienced Thursday night. Concrete sluiceways, favorite flood control devices during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, are rarely built today. In their place are returns to natural drainage ways, where stream restorations, with their meandering channels and broad floodplains, mimic the original lay of the land, and help recharge the ground water instead of getting it into an outfall as fast as possible. Sadly, the force of the rushing water last week destroyed many natural trails and stream valleys, despite the best efforts of the design engineers. And so the work begins on clean up and maintenance that will allow access to some of our favorite urban niches in the coming months. Many places are damaged or inaccessible right now, so caution is advised. Trail upheavals may indicate the presence of unseen washouts under the blacktop or concrete. River rocks and boulders were shoved by water into places that will require heavy maintenance equipment to remove. A full assessment of damage is underway by county and Park Authority crews.

If you experienced flooding in last week’s storm, the Fairfax County Health Department recommends taking precautions to avoid indoor air quality problems associated with mold. Moisture that enters building from leaks or flooding accelerates mold growth. Log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/ for more information.

The 32nd annual Mason District Park Festival will be held on Saturday, September 24, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the park, 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Festival admission and parking are free. The Festival features live entertainment on the showmobile stage (Attention Parents: the Dino Rock puppets perform at 10 a.m.), police and fire demonstrations, and a free hay ride. Tickets for children’s rides may be purchased at the Festival. Vendor spaces are still available, so if you have a craft, a business, or a special service that you would like to highlight, please call my office at 703/256-7717 to obtain an application. No spaces will be assigned after September 19, so please indicate your interest today.


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