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Feds Approve Prince William Redistricting

Map of approved voting precincts in eastern Prince William County.

Prince William County, Va. –– The federal government has approved Prince William County’s decennial redistricting plan.

The plan, which transformed the Dumfries Magisterial District to the Potomac District, was passed by the county’s Board of Supervisors in April. Afterward, it was forwarded by law to the U.S. Department of Justice for final approval.

“The approval of the County’s redistricting plan is the culmination of a process that involved the entire community. The Board heard input from the Human Rights Commission, the NAACP, various community groups and many individuals, said Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart. “Clearly this Board worked diligently to make certain we had district lines that were fair and equitable to the demographics and population of Prince William County, and the Department of Justice agreed.”

The plan modified the counties seven magisterial districts — which help to define polling places — to account for population growth over the past 10 years.  Prince William’s population grew 43 percent since 2000, from 289,000 to 404,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.

Traffic
HOV Violators Targeted

Taking the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 Tuesday? Make sure your car has three or more occupants.

Virginia State Police along with other agencies are cracking down on those who violate the HOV laws as part of a stepped up enforcement effort, Capital HOV Awareness Day.

Police will be out in force during both the morning and evening rush hours driving the length of the lanes as well as sitting along the highway trying to spot violators, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

The enforcement methods will shift throughout the morning and evening to avoid traffic backups.

While vehicles on HOV lanes on I-95 and 395 must have three or more occupants, vehicles on I-66 must have two occupants to use the lanes.

Police in Maryland will also step up enforcement on their HOV lanes, on I-270 and the John Hanson Highway (U.S. 50).

During the special HOV enforcement last year, police issued 2,300 summons and arrests over the two-day enforcement period, said Geller.

News
Storms Possible Tonight

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Prince William County until 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

It comes as a large area of storms is moving east from the Charlottesville area into the Potomac Communities.

Temperatures have been hovering the in the high 80s and low 90s today, with periods of bright sunshine, making conditions ripe for scattered thunderstorms.

The forecast calls for more storms into the evening hours and throughout the day Sunday.

Temperatures are forecasted to drop significantly on Monday and Tuesday, as temps on Tuesday should hover in the mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service.

News
Unemployment Lowest in Northern Virginia

Prince

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart.

Prince William County, Va. –– The unemployment rate for jurisdictions along the Potomac River continues to fall.

Stafford County’s unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in April, down from 5.6 percent in April 2010.

Prince William County also posted a 4.9 percent unemployment number, down from 5.7 one-year ago.

While the two jurisdictions aren’t leading the region in job creation, officials in Prince William County this week credited the federal government and private sector jobs for the rise in the recent employments statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, which are well below the national unemployment average of 9.1 percent in May.

“Prince William County is located at the center of Northern Virginia, and our residents provide the highly skilled workforce needed to fill the jobs created throughout the Northern Virginia region,” said Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart in a press release. “We are committed to providing solutions for the federal government and private sector industries – particularly with regard to BRAC, the life sciences, data centers and government contractors – which continue to bring quality jobs to Prince William County and the rest of the Northern Virginia region.”

Arlington leads the area with the lowest unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, while Loudoun County comes in second with 3.9 percent, according to the Labor Department.

Fairfax County shows an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent.

Virginia localities still struggling to regain ground the economy is Martinsville, with an unemployment rate of 20.6 percent –– the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

Williamsburg has the second-worst unemployment rate in the state at 15.6 percent.

News
Video: Large Hail, Strong Storms Hit Area

Woodbridge, Va. –– A line of severe thunderstorms moved through the Potomac Communities late Thursday night bringing reports of ping pong-ball size hail in Woodbridge.

Much of the area was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning by the National Weather Service shortly after 11 p.m. The slow-moving storms brought heavy rain, high winds and dangerous lightning.

Large hail was also reported, according to the weather service.

The storms came after the region saw nearly record-breaking temperatures on Thursday.

Reagan Washington National Airport flirted with the 100 degree mark for much of the afternoon, and by 3:52 p.m. the mercury had reached 101 degrees. Add four to five degrees to that temperature for the heat index and that’s what people felt when they ventured out of the air conditioning.

A heat advisory was in effect throughout the day, expiring at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Temperatures will fall back into the lower 90s on Friday and into the high 80s for the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The possibility of showers and thunderstorms remain in the forecast over the next three days.

Unedited video of lightning rolling through Lake Ridge just before midnight Thursday.

Traffic
Officials Want Metro to Woodbridge on New Map

Washington Metro System (Courtesy: Planet Ware)

Woodbridge, Va. –– Officials want Metro to show riders they plan to someday extend system to the Potomac Communities.

In a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority today, Virginia State Sen. Toddy Puller (D-36, Prince William, Stafford), Del. Luke Torian (D-52, Dumfires, Woodbridge) and Del. Scott Surrovel (D-44, South Fairfax) urged the agency to include an extension of the system’s Blue Line to Woodbridge and Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir on a newly redesigned subway system map that will be used by riders.

The politicians say residents along the Richmond Highway (U.S. 1) corridor are crying out for an extension of the Yellow Line because of the military’s BRAC relocation of personnel to Fort Belvoir, which is expected to bring at least 19,000 new employees to the garrison.

A Blue Line extension would allow employees who are being relocated from the National Geospatial Defense Facility in Rosslyn to the Engineering Proving Grounds on Fort Belvoir to use the rail instead of being forced to drive on Interstate 95, the letter stated.

“It would serve the fastest growing part of Fairfax County over the last 10 years around the former Lorton Prison site. Extending the Blue Line to Woodbridge and Dale City would spur revitalization to the Route 1 corridor, bring relief to people with some of the longest commutes in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and take cars off the constantly clogged Interstate I-95,” the letter stated.

A $2 million transit study approved by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell will examine transportation improvements in the area between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Quantico Marine Corps Base. These three officials hope a Metro rail extension will be largely considered during this study.

The letter comes as Metro announced it would redesign it’s 40-year-old system map to reflect the addition of the system’s new Silver Line to Tysons Corner, and eventually Dulles Airport.

An extension of Metro’s Blue Line to Woodbridge quickly became a campaign issue in 2009, but officials never said how they would fund such an extension.

The idea was supported by then Delegate Paul Nichols, but he went onto lose to Del. Richard Anderson (R-51, Lake Ridge) who said he supported providing additional funding to Virginia Railway Express rather than Washington’s Metro system.

As the Metro map is set for a redesign, Greater Greater Washington has invited its readers to submit their ideas for a newly redesigned map. You can see those designs here.

News
Heat Advisory Issued for Wednesday

The heat and humidity will make a return to the Potomac Communities on Wednesday.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid 90s, and heat index values will make it fell as hot as 105 degrees outside, according to the National Weather Service.

That has prompted a heat advisory for the area from noon until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents are urged to stay indoors in air conditioning, put off strenuous activity until the late evening or do it during the early morning hours, know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and to wear light-colored clothing.

News
Around Town

A tree fell on a house in Stafford late last month, prompting officials to condemn the house. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Will grant money go to hire teachers for hard-to-staff schools?
Teachers who want to take grant money from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and put it toward pay incentives to hire teachers for hard-to-staff schools in Prince William County, reports Insidenova.com.

Where’s Virginia’s high-speed rail?
A prominent Virginia businessman says Virginia just doesn’t get the big picture when it comes to high-speed rail, and that’s he’s disappointed in Gov. Robert F. McDonnell for not doing more to bring faster trains to the state, reports the Washington Post.

Roads with route numbers above 600 may be out of luck
If the route numbers are above 600, they may not be widened for some time, reports My Piece of the Planet.

Stuart wins award for helping to protect the Chesapeake
When it comes to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, Sen. Richard Stuart (R, 28th –– Stafford, Prince William) has won an award for his efforts, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Groupon loses, so what does that mean for another popular coupon site
The Washington Business Journal asks what do losses for social coupon site Groupon say about Washington-based competitor Living Social?

News
Around Town

Bus driver in fatal crash has NOVA traffic violations
The driver charged in a fatal bus crash that occurred earlier this week in Caroline County has a record of other traffic violations in Northern Virginia, reports the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Hylton’s principal leaving
Hylton’s High School’s beloved administrator is moving onto another challenge, reports Dale City Patch.

10 dead on Va. roads over holiday weekend
10 people died in crashes on Virginia roads over the Memorial Day holiday, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Betts murder accomplice gets 30 years
An accomplice in the Brian Betts slaying, the D.C. school principal from Manassas who was murdered inside his Maryland home last year, gets 30 years in prison, reports NBCWashington.com.

News
Around Town

Woodbridge child eliminated from National Spelling Bee
A contestant in the National Spelling Bee from Woodbridge was eliminated Wednesday, reports Insidenova.com.

Tito the Builder gets his primary
Tito the Builder gets what he wants: A Republican Primary to decide the next GOP candidate for Virginia’s 36th Senate District, reports The Washington Post.

Bus crash stats released
Following the deadly bus crash earlier this week on Interstate 95, AAA has released stats on bus crashes on roads across the nation, Fredericksburg.com reports.

Lotto ticket giveaway
A man who had 10 winning lottery tickets is now helping to give some lottery tickets away, reports NBCWashington.com.

A little help to find your way around campus
George Mason University will begin using names like Aquia and Rappahannock to help guide visitors and new students to the college around campus, reports Connect2Mason.

Restrictions tightening for area for-profit colleges
The government wants to shut down for-profit colleges that have large amounts of students who cannot pay back their student loans because of unsuccessful career placement programs, reports the Washington Business Journal.

News
Hot Today, Storms Forecasted Tonight

Update 2:30 p.m.
A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the Potomac Communities until 10 p.m.

The National Weather Service has forecasted strong storms to move through the region this afternoon and tonight. Some may contain strong winds, heavy downpours and large hail.

Original Post 1: 30 p.m.
This afternoon’s hot temperatures should give way to a round of severe thunderstorms this afternoon.

A heat advisory remains in effect for the Washington area until 8 p.m., but those thunderstorms could begin moving through the area this afternoon and lasting through tonight.

Some of them could contain heavy downpours, high winds and large hail, according to the National Weather Service.

The temperature at Reagan Washington National Airport at 1:30 p.m. was 94 degrees, but heat index values made it feel like 100 or more degrees outside.

Despite the hotter than normal temperatures, officials in Prince William County say they have not responded to a higher than normal amount of calls for people suffering heat exhaustion.

But that doesn’t mean the hot weather doesn’t take a toll on the body.

Stafford County Department of Fire and Rescue spokesman Mark Doyle says people should drink more water in this hot weather, and not to wait until your body feels thirsty. He also warned against drinking alcohol or sugary drinks, and very cold drinks as they may cause stomach cramps.

If without air conditioning and using a fan, fans may not prevent heat-related illness, said Doyle.

Taking a cold shower or bath, or moving in a place that has air conditioning is a better way to cool off.

It’s also important to never leave any person or a pet in a closed, parked car, he added.

Those who must venture outside should limit their activity, keep to shaded areas and wear protective sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher, wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses to add further protection from the sun.

News
Around Town

Teen who assaulted sheriff’s deputy gets a reduced sentence
An autistic teenager from Stafford County who assaulted a sheriff’s deputy outside a high school last year had eight years shaved off of his prison sentence Tuesday, reports Fredericksburg.com.

Company that operated fatal bus shut down
The company that operates the bus that crashed on Interstate 95 on Tuesday killing four people has been shut down after various violations against the company were noted, reports NBCWashington.com.

New way to pay to ride Metro
Taking Washington’s Metro system can be confusing for tourists and first-time riders. Greater Greater Washington suggests a new way to pay to ride the nation’s subway.

Virginia to open new India office
The number of offices Virginia has overseas to lure business to the state is growing. The state will open a new office for trade in India this summer, reports The Washington Business Journal.

Washington area home prices continue to buck trend
While home prices across the nation fell in March, causing some to say this will be a double-dip recession for home prices, home sellers in the Washington area enjoyed a slight increase in prices, reports The Washington Business Journal.

News
Around Town

Volunteers needed for Civil War festivities
The Prince William Convention and Visitors Bureau has called for volunteers to assist with parking, hand out brochures as well as tackle a wide range of other tasks during this year’s 150th Civil War Celebration, reports NOVA Fortnighlty.

Police search alleged killer’s cell phone
Fairfax County police have recently searched the cell phone of the man charged with killing another man in the county’s Belle View area April 13, Kingstowne Patch reports.

Snapping the right nature photo
Something just in time for getting outdoors this summer: picking the right camera to capture all of your outdoor nature shots. Area blog Your Piece of the Planet has posted some tips for budding photographers.

Residents asked to conserve water
From the nearby news file: Officials in Caroline County have asked residents to conserve water after a water pump that provides H20 to residents and businesses failed, reports Fredericksburg.com.

D.C.’s dumbest drivers
A new survey finds Washington, D.C. has the dumbest drivers on the road, according to results of drivers exams, reports NBCWashington.com.

Traffic
Teen Bus Pass Also Great for Baseball Fans

OmniLink switch riders buses at the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. — It’s a teenager’s annual pass to getting around town, and it goes on sale Tuesday.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission is once again selling its OmniLink Teen Summer Pass.

The bus pass is good for unlimited rides on local buses that run along U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, on Dale Boulevard in Dale City, Old Bridge Road in Lake Ridge, on OmniRide’s Cross-County Connector between Woodbridge and Manassas, as well on local buses in Manassas.

The pass costs $30 and is good for rides on OmniLink buses between June 1 and Sept. 3, said PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

In addition to unlimited rides, it also guarantees $1 off Potomac Nationals tickets on Friday nights beginning June 10. Riders must show their passes at the ticket window before the game, said Rodrigo.

Teen passes are available at the following locations:

PRTC Transit Center, 14700 Potomac Mills Road, Woodbridge (next to Hylton Chapel)
-Mondays through Fridays, June 1 to August 5, 2011, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Potomac Mills Mall food court
-Saturday, June 11, 12-4 p.m.
-Saturday, June 25, 12-4 p.m.

Manassas Mall food court
-Saturday, June 18, 12-4 p.m.
-Saturday, July 9, 12-4 p.m.

News
Dangerous Temps Forecasted

Memorial Day weekend may be the unofficial start of summer, but the Mother Nature is giving sure signs the hottest season of the year has arrived.

A heat advisory goes into effect for the Washington area at noon Monday and will last until 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

High temperatures on Monday will be in the low to mid 90s, and in the high 90s on Tuesday. But the humidity will drive up the heat index making it feel like 100 to 105 degrees outside.

The high temperatures can cause illness in those who are exposed to the high temperatures.

Those who don’t have to be out in the heat are urged to stay indoors. Those who do should drink plenty of water, and find shade and take frequent breaks.

The first heat wave of the season should last through Wednesday, when showers and thunderstorms could move through the area bringing with them lower temperatures with highs in the 80s for Thursday and Friday.

The first day of summer, or the summer solstice, is June 21.

News
Trees Fall into Houses

A tree fell onto a house at 13112 Orleans Street in Lake Ridge after a summer storm Friday.

Lake Ridge, Va. –– Vanessa Baez was lying in bed with her 3-year-old son Friday evening when the unexpected happened: a tree fell through the roof of their Lake Ridge home.

Immediately, Baez rolled over to protect her son, SiRian, from the falling debris. They both made it out safely and called the fire department.

By the time Baez’s mother got home from work to check on the two, the fire department would not let anyone back into the house. Everyone was thankful no one was injured.

The tree fell as a round of severe storms were moving through the Potomac Communities about 7 p.m. Friday.

The storm brought heavy rain and winds to the area, as well as many more downed trees.

A tree also fell into a house on Evergreen Court in Stafford, and another tree fell and caught fire, closing Courthouse Road (Va. 630), said Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle.

Crews at 9 p.m. were still working to clear the mess from the roadway.

Dominion Virginia Power reported outages across the area following the storms, with more than 2,300 customers out in North Stafford at 9 p.m., as well as other outages in Woodbridge and Lake Ridge.

The storm also brought with it a tornado warning that expired at 7:15 p.m., but there have been no reports of any funnel cloud sightings.

A severe thunderstorm watch that was set to expire at 8 p.m. was extended to 10 p.m., but was later dropped.

The threat of storms remains in Saturday’s forecast, between noon and 4 p.m., according to the weather service.

Traffic
Storms Bring Downed Trees, Power Outages

Update 7:48 p.m.
Dominion Virginia Power reports more than 4,300 customers without power in Burke area.

Update 7:30 p.m.
Dominion Virginia Power reports more than 2,500 customers without power in North Stafford following severe storm that just moved through area. Utility crews report an estimated repair time between 9 and 11 p.m.

Original Post 7:15 p.m.
Fire and rescue crews have fanned out across Stafford County inspecting downed trees and reports of auto accidents after a strong storm moved through the area tonight.

There have been multiple reports of downed trees across the county, said Stafford fire and rescue spokesman Mark Doyle.

That same storm is now moving its north through Woodbridge and is expected to impact the Lorton and Springfield areas within the hour.

A tornado warning for North Stafford and the Dale City expired at 7:15 p.m. A severe thunderstorm warning continues for Woodbridge and southern Fairfax County until 7:45 p.m.

News
Crime Watch: Woman Abducted, Shots Fired

Warrants issued after woman abducted, assaulted
A woman was abducted by an acquaintance after an argument, police say.

Officers were called to a home in the 1500 block of Walnut Street in Woodbridge after the 33-year-old victim said she was assaulted by a male acquaintance that held her against her will.

The victim was eventually able to leave the house and call police the following day, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Police are unable to locate the man accused in the attack.

Investigators have issued warrants for Juan Carlos Ramirez, 24, of Woodbridge, charging him with abduction, intent to defile and malicious wounding, said Perok.

He’s described as Hispanic, between 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown eyes and black hair.

Woman hears shots, finds bullet holes
A woman who was watching TV at her home Friday heard gunshots ring out, and then noticed a large hole in her bathroom window.

The shots were fired at 12:03 a.m. in the 3100 block of Chesapeake Drive in Woodbridge, just off Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1).

After seeing the hole in her bathroom window, she noticed another one in an adjacent window, police said.

No one was injured.

Home burglarized, cash missing from safe
Cash was reported missing from a safe at a home in North Stafford on Thursday.

Police say a home on Park Road in the Windsor Forest neighborhood was broken into between 8 and 11 a.m. Thursday.

The homeowner told Stafford sheriff’s deputies when he returned home items in the house were out of place, and saw that a window had been opened, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.

Man robbed in Triangle
A 56-year-old man told police he was robbed in the 18200 block of Graham Court in Triangle at 12:50 a.m. Saturday.

The man was getting out of his vehicle when he was approached by a group of men that took his wallet, which had an undisclosed amount of money inside, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

The men fled on foot and the victim was not injured. The victim was not able to provide a description of any of the men, police say.

News
First Thunderstorms, Then Hot

The Memorial Day weekend starts in the Potomac Communities tonight with the region under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m.

According to the National Weather Service, there is a possibility of strong thunderstorms after 4 p.m.

If the weather turns severe, turn to us for updates.

Just after 1 p.m. Friday, the temperature at Regan Washington National Airport was 83 degrees. Temperatures were forecast to climb into the upper 80s on Friday, according to the weather service.

The forecast calls for much of the same weather on Saturday, with temperatures in the mid 80s and a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms.

Expect it to be hot on Sunday, as the threat of storms diminishes and the mercury is forecast to climb into the 90s.

On Memorial Day, it’ll be even hotter outside with temperatures with a forecast high of 95 degrees.

Traffic
VRE Preps for Crowding Today

A Virginia Railway Express train pulls into the Woodbridge station. (File Photo: Mary Davidson)

As commuters get ready to head home for the long holiday weekend, Virginia Railway Express has added extra cars to trains to accommodate passengers.

The most crowded trains this afternoon are expected to be Fredericksburg line train #303 and Manassas line train #307.

Those two trains will be the longest VRE trains this afternoon, according to a VRE spokesman.

The transit system also reminds passengers there will be no service Monday in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

The longer trains come after passengers on the railroad this week experience major delays Tuesday night, when a freight train broke down on the tracks in a critical junction point between VRE’s Fredericksburg and Manassas lines.

The disabled train delayed VRE trains for up to 70 minutes, forcing some passengers to take cab rides to get home.

The railroad offered to reimburse passengers for the cost of those rides in a apology statement sent to its riders Wednesday.

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience this unusual situation caused and will continue to work hard to avoid anything like it in the future,” VRE stated.

VRE says officials from Keolis, the company contracted to operate VRE trains and CSX, the owners of the railroad, were on the scene for hours Tuesday trying to get the train moving.

In the end, Amtrak was able to provide some additional equipment to get the train moving again.

News
Vandals Hit Woodbridge High School, Stafford Neighborhood

Aaron Gilliam, 18, is charged in connection to a vandalism at Woodbridge Senior High School. (Submitted)

Woodbridge, Va. –– Two people have been charged in connection to a vandalism at Woodbridge Senior High School.

Police say someone broke into the high school on Old Bridge Road in Lake Ridge between 1:25 and 2:30 a.m. Saturday and sprayed fire extinguishers, poor liquids on floors and glued coins to door locks.

On Thursday, police say they’ve arrested the culprits behind the vandalism.

Aaron Alexander Gulliam, 18, of Colby Drive in Lake Ridge, is charged with burglary and destruction of property, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

He is scheduled to appear in court June 22 and was released on his own recognizance.

A 17-year-old from Woodbridge was also charged in connection to the vandalism, said Perok.

His name was withheld because he is a minor.

Police in Stafford County are also investigating a series of vandalisms that prompted several calls to that county’s sheriff’s department Wednesday.

At least seven vehicles parked in the Stafford Lakes area had been spray painted. One of the cars that had been left unlocked had its interior spray painted, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.

Anyone with information in this case is encouraged to contact the Stafford Sheriff’s Department.

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