UPDATE: Falls Church City Hall reported Friday that the bridge on S. Oak Street in the City damaged in the July 8 flash flood has been repaired and open to traffic this afternoon.
South Oak Street, where it crosses over Tripps Run by the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in a heavy populated residential neighborhood of the City of Falls Church, remained closed to traffic Wednesday evening, more than a week after the flash flood event of Monday, July 6, dumped over three inches of rain here in the course of an hour and a half.
According to City Hall, there is no structural damage to the bridge, but an assessment of the surface renovation need had not yet been completed. This was despite comments by the City’s director of public works, Mike Whitfield, to the City Council Monday that he expected the bridge to be reopened by Tuesday, at least as a one-way road.
Whitfield and senior engineer Alan Dalton briefed the Council on the impact of the sudden storm that, despite its brevity, has been classified as a “100 year storm” for infrastructure evaluation and insurance purposes.
Whitfield said that it is becoming the norm for the region to experience one or two above 100 year storms every year as global climate change takes its toll. According to the EPA, a 100 year storm is one that is expected to occur once every 100 years.
The flash flooding event that hit the City and environs during an hour and a half period on the morning of Monday, July 8, caused significant residential and street damage in the City, more than the damage to the Oak Street bridge.
The total rainfall dumped onto the City was between 3.0 and 3.3 inches between 8:25 a.m. and 10:07 a.m., according to both Doppler radar and storm spotter reports, the City Public Works department told the Council in a prepared report.
Much of the residential damage, mostly flooding of basements, occurred outside the official flood zone of the City along Hillwood Avenue and near where Four Mile Run rolls through the northeastern part of the City. Otherwise, damage was reported in the flood zone for Tripps Run near Jefferson Elementary, including flooding on E. Columbia Street.
Coleman PowerSports on S. Washington notified its customers this week that some of its repair work is having to be delayed due to water damage on its property from the storm, although none of its new inventory was impacted.
There were temporary blockages of some roadways with flooded vehicles, and one case of a rescue of a person trapped in a flooding basement on Lincoln Avenue.
The street and property flooding was due to the fact that the City’s stormwater pipe system was “simply full to overflowing, with nowhere for the water to go,” Dalton told the Council.
However, the City will not receive federal or state disaster assistance, as the reported damage did not rise to the levels to qualify. However, City residents with damage from the storm are likely to qualify for state low interest loan assistance, as combined with Arlington, a threshold was met to qualify. The official word on that was expected from Richmond Wednesday.
Also, the Council was told that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is reviewing the boundaries of the official flood zone in the City. Structures in the zone require flood insurance, on the one hand, and are offered discounts on it, on the other.
At Monday’s meeting, Council member David Snyder protested that once again, state and local entities are being expected to bear the brunt of impacts caused by federal inaction, especially by the current administration, on climate change.
Mayor David Tarter said the City is going to have to reevaluate its priorities in the wake of repeated damaging weather events. “We need to accelerate solutions,” he said.
In the meantime, in the wake of the July 8 storm, the City waived collection fees for bulk collections through yesterday, and waived fees for required City permits for damage repair, including electrical repairs and gas appliance replacement.