In the lane snow was glistening. Sherwood Hall Lane, that is. But it wasn't snow that was glistening. It was water from a broken main that left approximately 32 customers caught in a drought surrounded by seven to eight inches of snow.
On Friday afternoon, at around 2, Fairfax County Water Authority got a call concerning a loss of water near the intersection of Sherwood Hall Lane and Parkers Lane in the Mount Vernon District. The call had come from Dr. Timothy Russell, president, Sherwood Hall Medical Center Condominium Association.
Although that building, at 2616 Sherwood Hall Lane, just before the intersection, in which he and various other physicians have their offices, was not affected, he became suspicious when he noticed "water seeping onto the roadway from beneath the surface."
"I normally walk to the office. That's how I noticed the water coming up through the roadway," he explained. "The Authority got there pretty fast and were working away when I left."
AMONG THOSE directly impacted were the Sherwood Regional Branch of the county library system and the offices of Mount Vernon District supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D). His office is on the second floor of the library building at 2501 Sherwood Hall Lane. Both remained open until their normal closing time of 6 p.m.
"When I got a call from my staff saying they didn't have any water, I knew exactly what the problem was. I had seen this small geyser coming out of the street at Sherwood Hall Lane and Oaklawn Drive, right near where I live," Hyland recalled.
"The snowstorm was not the causal factor," said Jeanne Bailey, public affairs officer, Fairfax County Water Authority. "These types of breaks are more consistent with fluctuating temperatures and the unusually cold temperature we have been experiencing."
She verified, "We have had more breaks for this early time of year, but not more than we normally have when we get these extremely cold periods."
As Dr. Russell had observed, Authority crews responded quickly and were able to turn off the water immediately, according to Bailey. "But, we are like any other customer. Before we can do any digging, we have to alert Miss Utility. They, in turn, verify the location of all underground utilities in the immediate area of the dig. That way no other damage is done by mistake," Bailey explained.
THE LEAK IN THE PIPE was repaired by 9 p.m. Then a valve problem was discovered, which delayed water service’s being restored until approximately 3 a.m., Saturday, Bailey acknowledged. "There were several service interruptions in other areas of the Mount Vernon district, but none that caused extensive delays in water availability to customers," she noted.
Although the new District Building, which houses the Mount Vernon Police Station, and the Mount Vernon Station of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department are near the site of the break, neither was affected. However, the situation did call for adjustments in police duties, according to Police Lt. Joseph Hill.
"The Motor Section responded to relieve other patrols for regular duty," Hill explained. "They were assigned to help traffic at the intersection and assist motorists and pedestrians from becoming involved with the ice on the road surface."
AS FAR AS traffic problems during the storm were concerned, Hill noted, "It was a typical snow day. There were no serious incidents. Mainly just some fender benders.
"Our serious accident occurred well after the storm, when a teen-ager was killed in an accident on Old Colchester Road. It appears to be related to speed rather than weather." In that accident, a car slammed into a tree, killing one passenger and injuring the driver and another passenger.
Schools throughout the Mount Vernon area remained closed through Friday, according to Mary Shaw, communications specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools. "Because the system is so large, we decided to stay closed so that all the side roads could be completely cleared," she explained.
"There is also the consideration of making sure that the school parking lots are cleared. Many of them are quite large, and it takes a while to clear them," Shaw stated.
THAT CHORE OF making sure the highways were cleared did prove to be a challenge, said Joan Morris, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman. "With the snow continuing to fall at such a steady rate, it became a matter of just keeping up, rather than getting ahead," she said.
"We had 1,300 trucks and plows out removing snow and spreading salt, but it wasn't until Thursday evening that we began to get control of the situation," Morris said. "There were no real trouble spots. The misery was pretty well spread around."
During this recent storm, VDOT tried a new game plan for snow removal, according to Morris. "We placed 40 percent of our equipment in subdivisions to deal with secondary roads and kept 60 percent on the major highways. It seemed to work very well for us," she concluded.