Winter has arrived, and with it many of our usual frozen rituals to hunker down until tulips appear in the spring.
There’s a lot to say about winter, so we’ve compiled just some of the more frequently asked issues in the guide below. We’re not in the weather prediction business, so all we can do is be prepared, encourage you to get ready for winter and respond/recover from whatever Old Man Winter may throw our way.
Snow removal is on top of everyone’s mind — we need to get around! We get complaints every year, but it’s important to know Fairfax County does NOT remove snow from most roads. The Virginia Department of Transportation has that responsibility in nearly every Virginia county.
Northern Virginia roads are divided into 613 snow maps, which are updated yearly. Using VDOT’s online snow plow tracker, you can check the status of your road and see what has been cleared. This year, all VDOT plows and contract equipment have locators to track their position and progress.
Here are VDOT’s road clearing priorities:
- Interstates and most primary roads
- Snow emergency routes and heavily trafficked roads
- Other secondary roads and residential streets maintained by VDOT
Please contact VDOT for additional information (1-800-FOR ROAD (1-800-367-7623), TTY 711).
If a street within a townhouse, condominium or business/commercial complex is not posted with a state route number, it is a private street that is the responsibility of the homeowner/condominium association or property management company to clear. Please contact your association or the property manager for further information.
It takes a whole community to shovel snow and ice from sidewalks because Mother Nature may take her time to melt it — and your state and local governments simply don’t have the resources to clear sidewalks across 400 square miles of the county.
While not legally obligated, we need your help to keep sidewalks safe by clearing snow in front of residential or business property so that all pedestrians, especially school children, those with disabilities and the elderly, may walk safely.
Homeowner associations may require members of their communities to clear the private walkways abutting their property. Please contact your association or property manager for further information.
We recommend seven places to consider shoveling:
- The sidewalk in front of your home
- The sidewalk in front of vacant homes or homes where residents are unable to shovel
- Fire hydrants
- Bus stops (there are more than 4,000 in the county!)
- Sidewalks/paths that lead to schools or community buildings where snow has been removed
- Bike trails
- Storm drains
All seven locations are important, but certainly keep fire hydrants in mind for storms that may bury them. In case of a fire, we need your help so first responders can do their job quickly. Many of you heard our call during the blizzard in January 2016:
Thanks to the many people who’ve been clearing snow from fire hydrants following the storm. pic.twitter.com/TJ1mUivyu0
— Fairfax County (@fairfaxcounty) January 25, 2016
We do plow a few roads in the county, but again VDOT and homeowner associations clear snow from most roads. Our snow removal efforts are first focused on a priority list of county locations such as police and fire stations, government centers and mass transit sites, and then followed by other facilities such as libraries. Learn more about county government snow removal:
You may remember Jan. 20, 2016. It was a few days before the blizzard struck with 30 inches of snow. On Jan. 20, a small amount of snow fell at just the wrong time for the evening commute, snarling traffic and stranding many people on the roads for hours.
To help our region prepare better and potentially avoid these horrific commutes, the local National Weather Service office will be testing a new kind of alert this winter that’s not available anywhere else in the United States at this time. It’s called the “Potential Winter Commuter Hazard Statement.”
“There is a particular set of circumstances that all must come together to make a Jan. 20 type of traffic disaster come together,” says Chris Strong, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling. “They are roads that are well below freezing, a small amount of snow, and rush hour traffic. When we see the possibility of these all coming together, with about a day of advance notice, we will now issue a Potential Winter Commuter Hazard Statement. These will be broadcast as a special weather statement over weather radio, posted on our webpage, and broadcast over our social media feeds.”
You can find out county government status updates this winter from a variety of sources:
- Twitter: @fairfaxcounty
- Facebook: @fairfaxcounty
- Channel 16 TV crawl
- Emergency Information Hotline at 703-817-7771, TTY 711
- Local media
What does County Executive Ed Long consider when making a decision about government status? Read his perspective about snow and operating status decisions. Of course, our first responders, snow removal crews, public information officers and others work regardless of the county’s operating status.
Also to note: The three courts in the county make their own decision, but we will communicate that information through the tools above so you know whether you have jury duty, cases are postponed and if court services are available.
Our public school system determines its own operating status, which can be a separate and different decision than county government. Learn more about the school decision-making process.
New this winter! To help parents survive extended school closures due to snow, our Park Authority has Snow Day Camp for children ages 6 to 10 years old at Audrey Moore, Lee District, Spring Hill and Oak Marr RECenters.
Through March, Snow Day Camp will be held during extended closures of Fairfax County Public Schools, specifically when schools are closed two or more days in a row. Snow Day Camps will begin on the second consecutive all-day school closing. Please note that the camps will not operate for single day closures, late openings or early dismissals, do not operate on weekends and will not be held when Fairfax County Government is closed or the Fairfax County Park Authority is closed.
Here’s what to know:
- Ages: Children 6-10 years old
- Availability: Spaces are limited to 30 students per site and are on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Cost: The cost is $65 per day per child, non-refundable fee. No scholarships or extended care are available.
- Activities: A variety of games, sports, arts and crafts and self-directed activities run by trained leaders who have undergone background checks.
- Registration: Once the decision is made to open Snow Day Camp (based on school and county closings), you will be able to register:
- Online: Look for registration link on the FCPA website Fairfax County Park Authority.
- Email Notification: Sign up for advance email notification on this page Snow Day Camp.
- Call: Call us 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 703-222-4664.
- In-person: Walk-in to register at any local RECenter. While registration on site may be available the day of the program if space is available, it is strongly encouraged to register online or by phone.
Get more details or call the Park Authority at 703-324-5273.
Anyone can be affected by hypothermia if you don’t dress in layers and seek shelter when you can. What are the signs of hypothermia? This quick guide provides a few tips:
However, not everyone in our county has a home, and therefore they are vulnerable to hypothermia.
To help our vulnerable neighbors survive the winter, we provide overnight shelter with a “no turn-away” policy at all emergency homeless shelters during freezing weather. Through the coldest months of the winter, we also provide the Hypothermia Prevention Program, a countywide community network of 45 overnight shelters. Through this program last winter, our nonprofit and faith-based community partners served almost 1,000 men and women with a safe, warm place to sleep.
Cold, arctic air moving in now and staying through the weekend. Keep an eye out for people who may need shelter. pic.twitter.com/kPBB3rMdiK
— Fairfax County (@fairfaxcounty) December 9, 2016
- If you see someone at night who is unsheltered and you think could be at risk of hypothermia, call the county’s non-emergency phone line at 703-691-2131, TTY 711.
- Our community partners need your help this winter. Contact our Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and we’ll provide you with information on where the need is greatest or the nonprofit partner that is closest to where you live or work. Call 703-324-9492, TTY 711, or send an email.
Not seeing a topic listed above in this guide? Then check out these winter weather resources:
- Freezing Pipes and Plumbing
- Hypothermia and Frostbite
- Ice Skating
- People with Disabilities
- Power Outage and Food Safety
- Winter Storm, Snow & Cold
- Warming Centers
- Home Heating Assistance
- Alternative Heating Source Safety