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Sandy Leaves Clean-up Behind

Fallen tree blocks Crestwood Drive east of Cameron Mills Road.

Fallen tree blocks Crestwood Drive east of Cameron Mills Road. Photo by Louise Krafft.

— The hybrid hurricane and nor’easter known as Sandy smashed into Alexandria Monday night, packing wind gusts of up to 60 miles an hour. Schools closed and absentee balloting stopped as the city went into a virtual lockdown. When the sun came up on a drizzly Tuesday morning, Alexandria awoke to find very little damage — no reported injuries, no major accidents, no critical buildings damaged, no historic buildings compromised.

“The storm packed a big punch,” said Tony Castrilli, spokesman for the Alexandria city government. “But Alexandria was prepared, and we did the best we could under the circumstances.”

City officials distributed about 6,000 sandbags and shut down the government for two days. DASH bus service was discontinued, and the King Street Trolley was suspended. At the peak of the storm, 12,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers in Alexandria were without power. About a dozen trees feel on houses. One apartment building on the West End had a roof problem and was evacuated.

“We dodged a bullet,” said Mayor Bill Euille. “We were certainly spared in terms of the amount of damage inflicted on New Jersey and New York.”

DESPITE MISSING the initial punch, Alexandria officials are still concerned about tidal flooding in the coming days. The high tide at 10:20 p.m. Thursday night is particularly concerning to city officials, who say that’s when the threat of flooding in Old Town is greatest. At press time, city officials are preparing for a flood that could reach Lee Street — known as Water Street in the original town layout because that was the location of the waterline in 1749.

“It depends on how much pressure builds up in the Potomac and how fast,” said Euille. “We’re expecting at least two feet of water on Union Street Thursday night.”

One bright spot in the storm recovery was the minimal tree damage throughout the city. Because last summer’s violent derecho purged many of the weaker trees and limbs throughout the city, the remaining canopy was strong enough to take the brunt of Sandy this week. One concern was the lack of in-person absentee balloting, which was cancelled on Monday and part of Tuesday. Alexandria election officials have already scheduled expanded hours for the rest of the week and next week as Election Day draws near.

“We had a very hefty turnout on Tuesday after the storm,” said Anna Leider, deputy registrar. “We had about 400 people come in and vote.”