Although a thunderstorm had been predicted, the ferocity of Friday’s storm was an unwelcome surprise for area residents who, as of press time, have already endured four days without electricity and, in many cases, without telephones and other communication devices. To top it off, customers of the Falls Church Water Department, including some in Mason District, were advised to boil water before drinking.
The Seven Corners and Annandale areas seemed to be hardest hit in Mason District, although many calls also came from the Parklawn neighborhood, where the opening day of the summer Rec PAC program at Parklawn Elementary School had to be cancelled. Ravenwood Park, Lee Boulevard Heights, and Sleepy Hollow had significant outages, and Annandale residents, especially those near Hummer and Gallows Roads, often found streets blocked. As an older developed community, Mason District benefits from a large number of lovely mature trees. Those same trees cause grief when they, or their large limbs, smash to the ground during heavy weather events, taking with them whatever might be in their path – utility lines, vehicles, houses.
Police and fire responded quickly, despite the loss of 911 capacity. Public safety agencies reverted to their Y2K training, which had prepared them for the potential loss of communications at the turn of the Millennium. Police cordoned off some major intersections to prevent left turns when the signals were out. Drivers were advised to treat dark intersections as four-way stops, and most did heed that advice. At one home, a huge tree crashed onto the roof lengthwise, essentially destroying the structure. The homeowner, a widow, told me that someone was looking out for her, as a last minute walk down the hall for a glass of water prevented her from being crushed as she slept.
There was good news, too, as neighbors helped neighbors clean up and remove debris. (A note about debris: tree trunks and debris will not be collected automatically by Fairfax County. Please contact your trash hauler for instructions about how to properly dispose of storm debris.) Some streets took on a party atmosphere as neighbors set up picnics in the front yard, probably to use up food that would otherwise spoil without electricity. The Harris Teeter grocery store in Barcroft Plaza distributed free bags of ice, a rerun of their similar outreach after Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Thank you, Harris Teeter! The lack of power didn’t stop the free summer concerts at Mason District Park and Ossian Hall Park Saturday and Sunday. Concertgoers simply picked their way around fallen trees to enjoy the music. On Monday, the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque responded to an urgent appeal for help from a low-income senior citizens group home in Bailey’s Crossroads. Without power, all their food was spoiled, and they had no resources to obtain more. The six elderly residents received a hot meal for lunch, with extra food for dinner, and more planned for later in the week. Storms sometimes bring out the best in people. Thank heaven!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org