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Occoquan Local

Unpopular Oaks III Plan Approved

Lake Ridge, Va. – Despite overwhelming opposition, officials Tuesday night approved a land rezoning that will lead to the construction of an office building in Lake Ridge.

In a five to three vote, a portion of the three-acre parcel of land at the busy intersection of Old Bridge Road and Tanyard Hill Road – a commuter cut through route and an entrance to the Town of Occoquan – was rezoned from agricultural land to office use. The decision gives way to plans to build a 32,500 square foot office building on the site.

While the rezoning passed, more than 100 people came to the Prince William County Government Center to oppose the plan, and ultimately the office building that will be called Oaks III. They cited traffic concerns on the already busy Tanyard Hill Road and the overburdened commuter thoroughfare, Old Bridge Road, and cited concerns for storm water runoff from a creek that bisects the property – fears amplified by recent flooding.

“Since 1972 we’ve dealing with water coming down the Ballywhack Creek regularly, and flooding us out regularly…we’ve simply reached a tipping point in Occoquan: There’s nowhere else for any more water to go, there nowhere else for even one more car to go,” said Town of Occoquan Preservation Society Acting President James Phelps.

A sticking point with residents, Occoquan officials, and for some Prince William County Supervisors in whose county this land is located, were claims the developer did not work with area residents to hear and address their concerns for the project. Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May fought hard against the rezoning and drafted a failed resolution to oppose the action. Supervisors Principi and Nohe supported May in voting against rezoning.

Chairman Corey Stewart, At-large, supported the ultimate plan to build office space, and said for too long Prince William has lost out to neighboring Stafford County which has been successful in attracting federal contractors to their workforce. He noted the value of the land in Lake Ridge and that its proximity to Interstate 95 makes it attractive to potential employers who will be looking for more office space once the job market rebounds.

“Proposals to develop this piece of property will come back. They came in the past, they’re coming today, and they will come in the future unless we make a decision today,” said Stewart. “Folks, doing nothing does not preserve this property.”

Not all of the land on the property will be used for the office building, as more than 13 of the nearly 18 acres will remain zoned agricultural, and the land will then be placed into a conservation easement where it will remain untouched forever, said Stewart.

In addition to Occoquan, the land sits near two other office buildings with similar names, Oaks I and Oaks II, as well as the Thousand Oaks residential neighborhood.

Public Will Speak Tonight on Contentious Development

Prince William County documents show the proposed Oaks III development at the corner of Old Bridge and Tanyard Hill roads in Lake Ridge, outside Occoquan.

By Stephanie Tipple

Lake Ridge, Va. — Prince William Supervisors tonight will hear from the public about a developer’s contentious plan to construct an office building at a busy intersection in Lake Ridge.

Supervisors ultimately will decide whether or not to rezone a property at Tanyard Hill and Old Bridge roads, outside Occoquan, to make way for a 32,500 square foot office building. This proposed commercial rezoning has met with opposition from elected officials on the Occoquan Town Council who do not support the project.

Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta has expressed two main concerns: the negative impact the project will have on storm water drainage which leads into the town, and the increased traffic the development will bring to the already congested area.

Town officials also said the development will impede their attempt provide economic growth opportunities to residents, and that by approving of these development project, the county will be “rewarding a developer for just the kind of behavior the county should be discouraging,” according to a resolution drafted by town officials denouncing the project.

But the Oaks III developer, Ken Thompson, a Virginia resident and longtime Lake Ridge community environmentalist, said the development on his piece of property will in fact provide many benefits to the community. As per the most current rezoning request, 76 percent of the property owned by Thompson will be left untouched, instead being placed into a conservation easement.

Thompson also said all of the studies and assessments of the property that have been done in preparation for this rezoning request, addressing the concerns that the town of Occoquan has thus far expressed.

A public hearing will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Prince William County Government Center on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge.

The proposed building
Plans call for the buildings to look similar to nearby Oaks office buildings previously built by Thompson in the past. It will be three stories, like the older buildings, with the addition of six windows on either side of the building, three more than the older buildings. There are also plans to plant several trees on the site, to tuck the office building away and preserve the natural aspect of the area.

Flood concerns
The Ballywhack Creek which runs through the middle of the parcel and into the small Occoquan town flooded recently causing damage to the buildings in the small village. The town fears developing the land would lead to more flooding from the creek.

But a study conducted on the safety of the stream rezoning request was being developed found the expansion would have low impact development techniques like cisterns and infiltrated ditches that they will have the ability to make the run off of the parcel even less than the flooding that the land is currently experiencing, according to Thompson.

Traffic concerns
There was also a traffic impact analysis completed in this planning period, and this was done in conjunction with the county’s transportation department and the Virginia Department of Transportation, which would not be heavily impacted. This study is on file and was submitted to the county and accepted. “We feel like we have an excellent application,” Thompson said of the recent rezoning request.

Neutral Board of Supervisors
On the whole, the members of the Board of County Supervisors remain neutral on the plans defined in the rezoning request, waiting until tonight’s meeting to hear both sides. Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May, who does not represent the Town of Occoquan but rather a magisterial district in Prince William County by the same name, has expressed some concerns that mirror those of the town’s. May said the entrance of the development and modifications that have been discussed, but said he will remain neutral at the present time.

Santa Shows in Occoquan, Again

Sophia, 4, and Lillian, 2, took a minute from shopping in Occoquan to let Santa know what they would like for Christmas. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — Santa decided to make one more appearance in Occoquan this weekend before heading back to the North Pole to get ready for his annual Christmas Eve ride.

Santa visited children during the boat rides held Saturday Sunday onboard of the Miss Rivershore. There were boat rides from 10 p.m. to 1 p.m., where children had the opportunity to experience some Christmas magic with Santa during this fun and festive half hour boat rides.

And while we all know that Santa has quite an appetite, Occoquan residents got to see this firsthand, as Santa made an appearance at The Pink Bicycle Team Room at 303 Commerce Street in Occoquan, where he had breakfast with attendees.

Photos: Prince William Officials Sworn In

Prince William County, Va. — Prince William County on Monday night held a swearing-in ceremony for members of the county Board of Supervisors, Sheriff’s office, and other elected positions, at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas.


Prince William County Board of Supervisor Chairman At-large Corey A. Stewart is sworn in for his second term as At-large Supervisor. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]



Prince William Sheriff Glen Hill is sworn in for his next term, a position he’s held since 2003. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]



Prince William Neabsco District Supervisor John Jenkins, a member of the Board since 1982, is sworn in for his next four-year term. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]


Prince William Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert is sworn in. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]


Elected officials attend a swearing-in ceremony in Manassas on Monday night. [Photo courtesy: Prince William County]

$16 Million Radio Upgrade Proposed

The new public safety radio system eyed by officials in Prince William County would improve radio ability inside buildings, documents state. Areas in red indicate improved radio coverage with after a new radio system is implemented.

Prince William County, Va. — The communication system used by first responders in Prince William County could soon get an upgrade.

County officials want to replace the radio system used by county police, fire and rescue personnel, public schools, sheriff’s office and jail with a new system guaranteed to last 15 years. It comes with a $16 million contract price tag with nearly $6 million in incentives worked into the deal, according to county documents.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is expected to be briefed on the new system at their public meeting Tuesday.

In addition to agencies in Prince William County, Dumfries, Haymarket, Quantico and Occoquan will also use the system.

The new radio system, which could be implemented by the lower of two current bidding compaines, Motorola, will improve radio communication inside of buildings on the eastern and extreme western sides of the county, documents state. The new system would also include two new base towers to improve the radio system’s transmission abilities.

The county’s current radio system was installed in 1999 and was guaranteed a lifespan of 15 years. It will no longer be supported by its manufacturer in 2013, and county officials hope to have a new system in place by the end of its guaranteed lifespan.

County documents don’t address an option of encrypting the radio system to shield communications from public ears. If county officials do encrypt its radio frequencies, they will follow suit with neighboring Stafford Count which last year hushed police communications, preventing residents from monitoring the sheriff’s department’s actions and from getting up to the minute information about road closures over the public airwaves.

Artists Host Holiday Collection in Occoquan

(Gary Gannt)

(Jane Ernst)

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. —The Unwrap the Magic art collection is presents the images of all of the wonderful things that make up winter and the Christmas season.

The exhibit is located in the Artists’ Undertaking Gallery, located at 309 Mill Street in Occoquan. This art gallery has been a fixture in Occoquan since 1977, and is known for doing yearly art collections to commemorate the Christmas season.

All of the images are based off of the premise of the beauty of winter and the holidays.

“The collection is meant to unwrap the magic of our artistic people,” and Jane Ernst, a local artist who has been involved with the art gallery since 2000.

This group of local talent includes, Steve Myles, David Ernst, Bob Horowitz, Jack Dyer, Gerry Gantt, Marianne Cordyack and Ernst.

One of the most unique components of this art collection is all of the different mediums being used to express this holiday theme. On your trip to the gallery for Unwrap the Magic, expect to see encaustics, pastels, jewelry, acrylic, oil, fused glass, etchings and photographs represented.

The artists are anticipating a great turnout for Unwrap the Magic, and a reception will be hosted on Saturday Dec. 10, from 2 to 6 p.m., where patrons will be able to view the collection, and meet the artists as well.

For more information about the reception and the Unwrap the Magic exhibit, please check out their website.

Occoquan Blessed for Holidays

By Stephanie Tipple

Occoquan, Va. — Residents gathered Sunday night at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on the corner of Washington and Commerce streets in Occoquan to attend the annual Town Blessing. This blessing, held by the church’s Reverend Lundy, was a chance for residents to come together to ring in some Christmas cheer and give thanks.

The blessing service was held in the church, where the choir sang Christmas carols and Lundy gave his sermon on the story of Jesus at Christmastime. From there the group moved to a nearby gazebo , where town residents held candles in a circle around Lundy. The reverend then blessed the town and all those who are disadvantaged and in need of assistance this holiday season.

This long standing tradition has been a part of the community for many years, and is a way for community members to come together during the season of giving. Mayor Earnie Porta commented that this tradition of the Town Blessing started far before his time as mayor.

When the Town Blessing concluded, all of the residents moved to nearby Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant for the annual Occoquan Town Party, with food, drinks and celebration of the Christmas season. Delegate Luke Torian (D-52, Dumfries, Occoquan, Woodbridge), as well as Occoquan Town Council members and town merchants were in attendance.

(Photo: Stephanie Tipple/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan’s Untrim-a-Tree Helps Needy

Sophia, 4, and Lillian, 2, took a minute from shopping in Occoquan to let Santa know what they would like for Christmas. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

By Stephanie Tipple
For PotomacLocal.com 

Occoquan, Va. — Now that the holiday season is in full swing for many, this time of year can be a major hardship for many families. With the economy still on rocky soil, many families cannot afford to purchase the basic amenities and all of the gifts for their children and family members , but Occoquan residents and merchants are working together to bring the holiday cheer to these disadvantaged families.

The Untrim a Tree project, sponsored by the Prince William County Volunteer Organization and the Occoquan Merchants Association, is a collaborative effort to provide families with gifts and items that they need this Christmas. If you take a stroll around Occoquan you’ll see the Christmas tree set up for this project, laden with tags, each containing items that local families truly need this Christmas.

Betsy Merklein, owner of Personally Yours in Occoquan has been a major part of this project for many years. Merklein is passionate about helping others, and says that these gifts are given to young mothers, the elderly, and other families who have a real need for some good Christmas cheer.

Each person who will be on the receiving end of this project is given two wishes, and these are up for grabs for Occoquan and Prince William County residents to fulfill. While many residents have graciously jumped in, excited to help, there are still tags that are available to be claimed.

You get to select which tags you’d like yourself, and you have the opportunity to make a big difference in a family’s Christmas this year. If you’re interested in taking a tag for the Untrim a Tree project, then please contact Merklein at 703-494-8683.

Occoquan Proposes New Signage Rules

Occoquan's historic district along Mill Street. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan, Va. — It’s a sign of the times in Occoquan, literally. The Town Council has proposed changes to the rules that govern the types of signs businesses in the historic district can use.

Under the newly proposed rules, businesses can use up to four signs whether they be flags with logos or regular signs in any combination they choose. They’ll also be able to use up to two portable A-frame chalkboard signs outside their shops.

The proposed changes are a departure from the past when businesses weren’t even allowed to hang flags outside their businesses.

“I support the town council’s proposal on this, and I think they’ve come up with a more liberal proposal than what the Architectural Review Board had come up with,” said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

When the frenzy over signage in the town erupted this spring, the review board partnered was commissioned and it partnered with members of the business community to come up with signage recommendations. Unlike the proposal put forth by the Town Council, the ARB recommendations limited businesses to either using a flag or a sign, and classified flags as decorative flags or logoed flags.

“In every community there is a group of people who are very opinionated, and I’m sure there is a group of people would like to see more regulations when it comes to signs but I think we have a plan that works here,” said Porta.

The hubbub about signs comes after the town welcomed more than 100 shoppers to Occoquan on Friday night for its annual holiday open house and Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Occoquan Heralds the Holidays

Four-year-old Paloma is mesmerized by all the lights during the tree lighting in Occoquan Friday night. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan, Va. — The ghosts of Christmas were alive and about in Occoquan on Friday night.

A crowd of about 150 outside stood outside town hall on Mill Street for the annual lighting of the town’s Christmas tree. They helped to countdown from five the seconds until the button was pushed to light the tree.

Once the crowd reached “one,” a child pushed the button to light the tree but it didn’t light up. The crowd waited patiently as Mayor Earnie Porta and others tried to find out what caused the problem, and then, the tree suddenly turned on to cheers from the crowd.

The cause of the problem: a blown circuit breaker inside town hall, said Porta. But, it’s important to note town hall sits not far from the fabled Rockledge Mansion, where ghosts have been known to roam.

With the tree now lit, the little episode added to the magic that is ringing in the holiday season in Occoquan.

“Now, the group that we really need to thank, and the group we need to thank all year, is all of you,” Porta told the crowd. “Without you, not only our tree lighting wouldn’t be successful but our businesses wouldn’t be successful.”

A group of town residents volunteered to decorate the Christmas tree, and Salvation Army bell ringers stood along the streets Friday night to help get people into the holiday spirit while collecting for charity.

Businesses in town also got into the holiday spirit holding an open house, where the small shops remained open until 8 p.m. welcoming residents and those from out of town, showing them their wares.

“We are rarely this busy on a Friday night, and this has been a great way for us to meet so many new people,” said Kathy Alden of Spiral Creations in Occoquan.

Sophia, 4, and Lillian, 2, took a minute from shopping in down town Occoquan Friday night to let Santa know what they would like for Christmas. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

The River Walk Shops in Occoquan are dressed for the season. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

(Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

(Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

(Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan to Light Tree Friday Night

The Town of Occoquan.

Occoquan, Va. –– The tree is decorated, and small businesses and the mayor ready to welcome guests to Occoquan for the annual lighting of the town’s Christmas Tree.

Occoquan’s Business Guild will sponsor its annual holiday open house from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, giving the chance for visitors to see the town and its stores decorated for the holiday season, according to Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

The Salvation Army’s Bell Ringers will also perform during the evening.

Then, at 8:10 p.m., visitors will be invited to gather for the lighting of the tree at town hall. This year’s tree has been decorated by an all-volunteer team.

Afterward, a there will be a raffle to win a gift certificate to at Hawthorne House, a paper and stationary store in town.

Show Celebrates 60 Artists on 1 Block

Occoquan, Va. — Over the years, Occoquan has become a magnet for local artists. They plan to celebrate that this month at the first annual ‘Art on the Block” festival.

The event will feature four galleries located on one block in the small town with over 60 artists who will show their work.

“Art lovers like to come to an area where they can see the works of many artists and Occoquan can be a destination for these people,” said festival spokeswoman Jane Ernst.

The event will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the following galleries:

The Artists’ Undertaking Gallery, a co-op gallery located at 309 Mill Street was founded in 1977 by a group of artists searching for a place where they could have studios, sell their artwork and teach. It was first opened in the basement of 309 Mill Street, but after dealing with flooding, the group moved upstairs to its current location. In 2006, the gallery underwent an extensive renovation by expanding its size by taking over the business space behind it, and almost doubling its size. The gallery is home to 17 local artists whose media include art glass, basketry, copper work, drawing, eggshell carving, oil & acrylic painting, mixed media collage, pottery, photography, printmaking, turned wood and watercolor. The gallery will be celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2012.

The Loft Gallery at 313 Mill Street, was founded in 1986 by Marcia Weidler and Jackie Paetzold, and is comprised of 20 professional artists. Their shared dedication in organizing a co-op, which could present their work in the professional setting that it deserved, led to the opening of the gallery with a handful of local artists. A variety of media is represented, including watercolors, oils, woodcuts, pastels, acrylics, photography, original prints, collagraphs, lithographs, stained glass and pottery. The Loft Gallery also expanded its size to create The Loft Art Center, which includes working studios and a place for teaching. The gallery is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Art A La Carte, founded in 2010 by Donna Turgeon and Lorie Kagle, is located at 310 Mill Street. The gallery shows the artwork of 24 local artists. The media represented here includes painting, drawing, photography, pottery, turned and carved wood, clay flowers, stained glass, mosaics, wearable art, mixed media collage, art dolls and jewelry.

Kelly’s Artbox is located at 304 Mill Street, and is operated by artist, Kelly Campbell, who has been working as a freelance artist specializing in portraits, murals and custom model horses. Kelly’s Artbox also houses a classroom where Kelly teaches art classes. Her gallery also sells handmade jewelry, novelty soaps, luxury botanicals, cards, antiques and more.

Occoquan Hosts Fall Cleanup

The Town of Occoquan.

It may be fall, but the Town of Occoquan is doing a little spring cleaning.

This Saturday, October 15, the town will once again be a site for the Friends of the Occoquan’s annual fall river clean up.  Volunteers can meet at the Town Hall located at 314 Mill Street between 9:00 a.m. and noon, sign in, pick up cleaning supplies, and help spruce up the town and the environment.  

This year, Occoquan was hit particularly hard with flooding.  

Occoquan Craft Show This Weekend

The Town of Occoquan.

Occoquan, Va. — Crafters will once again descend on Occoquan this weekend for the town’s annual fall craft show.

The event takes place 10 a.m. 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday rain or shine and will feature more than 200 crafters, local merchants and restaurants at the fair.

Coupled with a craft fair in spring, the event is the largest annual happening in Occoquan.

With so many people descending on the town, fire and rescue officials say they are ready to help keep the festival safe with a fire department mascot.

“Sparky the Fire Dog is the OWL VFD firehouse mascot. Today Sparky helps to teach fire safety, but in the days of horse drawn fire carts, Dalmatians provided a valuable service. Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, so the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the engines to help clear a path and guide the horses and the firefighters to the fires quickly. They are still chosen by many firefighters as pets in honor of their heroism in the past,” said OWL VFD spokeswoman Rebecca Barnes.

As it has been in years past, drivers will not be able to park in Occoquan during the festival. The festival has created a webpage to direct drivers where to park and then take shuttle buses to the fair.

Divas Moving but Bubble Window Stays

Though the Polka Dot Divas store is moving across the street, the iconic bubble window on the front of their current location is not coming with them. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan, Va. — It’s one of the most unique windows in Occoquan, and the business it belongs to is leaving the building behind for a new location across the street.

Polka Dot Divas opened in nearly four years ago by two diva-licious women, Julie Marshall and Kristyn Gleason, in Bavarian-style building with an iconic bubble window on its front. Recognizing the window’s popularity, the shop used it as part of their marketing on their website.

But the time has come for the shop that specializes specialty gifts for women, no make that for divas, is moving into Occoquan Antiques which is going out of business.

“It is very exciting we can’t wait to have two large windows, and have Steve Lippert of Any Ideas set up his amazing displays for our product. The new location will give us the extra room we need now along with extra room to grow,” said Marshall in an email.

The store has a dedicated following, and many customers have been supportive of the move – especially since the divas are just moving across the street.

Why Occoquan Flooded

Occoquan, Va. — When you live by the Occoquan River, there’s a few things you have to accept, like the possibility of flooding. But on Thursday night it wasn’t the river that toppled its banks, but the Ballywhack Creek which runs through town.

The stream inundated the small Town of Occoquan with flood waters never before seen by its mayor, Earnie Porta. “We knew that flooding from the river was unlikely, because during the hurricane we looked at the river levels and we know when it is going to come over its banks. But I was stunned to see the flooding from Ballywhack Creek and how fast the waters rose,” said Porta.

The mayor was at Maddigans Waterfront restaurant for dinner Thursday night when the flooding began. He walked outside the restaurant where water was already up to his ankles.

Refusing an umbrella, he went to direct traffic and told drivers – who normally cut through the town to beat traffic and get to nearby Old Bridge Road — to avoid the area because the creek was flooded.

“The creek turned Center Lane and Union Street into a river. People have lived in town for longer than I have, and say they remember back to a time when the creek was more manageable,” said Porta.

Much of the creek’s watershed is outside Occoqaun’s town boundaries and is in neighboring Prince William County, where crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation worked feverishly during the storm to clear stopped-up culverts along the creek.

Those clogged culverts contributed to the flooding of the town, said Porta.

“We’re going to need some help from the county and put some cost into what it’s going to take to maintain the culverts and the creek to stop this from happening again,” he added.

Amazingly, many of the businesses beside the river along Mill Street were not heavily damaged. A popular hangout, The Underground, had water that pooled outside their below-street level entrance, but the door held managing to keep the water out.

Nearly all of the shops and restaurants in town opened Friday.

On Saturday, Porta was scheduled to tour portions of the flood damaged town with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D 11th-Fairfax, Prince William). 

Slide show: After Irene

Hurricane Irene brought a soaking rain, downed trees and power outages to the Potomac Communities.

Julie Bohn lives along the Occoquan River at the town that shares the same name. Though two tree limbs fell into her yard due to high winds during the height of the storm, she was happy things did not get as bad as they could have.

“We get a lot of big storms and then we get the flooding, but there is always something to fight down here. Living on the river has got its joys and its good points, and then, sometimes, you’ve got other things like this to deal with,” said Bohn.

More to the story: Mapping Irene: post your report to our Hurricane Irene Map.

Occoquan officials warned residents before the storm that town could flood, but a down Mill Street in Occoquan Sunday morning revealed no significant damage.

What’s left after Irene can be summed up with the various downed trees and power lines in the area. Dominion Virginia Power says they are responding to the 1.2 million people without power after the storm, and has asked anyone without power to call them.

Also in Occoquan was a downed tree hanging on a power line blocked a portion of Union Street leading into town.

More to the story: Few take refuge in an emergency shelter.

In the rural Arkendale area of North Stafford, a fallen tree closed a gravel section of Brent Point Road near Arkendale Road. An electrical cable also laid in the intersection of Arkendale and Widewater roads Sunday morning.

At 2 a.m., the long awaited brunt of the storm picked up bringing high winds to the area, but otherwise the storm brought some much-needed rain to the region.


Occoquan Braces for Flooding

The Town of Occoquan.

Occoquan, Va. –– Occoquan is bracing for the effects of flooding caused by Hurricane Irene

The area along Mill Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, is prone to flooding during storms.

The hurricane’s storm surge could also be a problem for the town nestled on the Occoquan River, which is now expected to be at least one to two feet above normal river levels by the time Irene rolls into the Potomac Communities early Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

“Occoquan has had a significant amount of experience with storm surges created by hurricanes. We can expect flooding along Mill Street, as well as power outages of varying duration,” said Occoquan Mayor Ernie Porta.

Just west of the town lies a large dam used to contain the Occoquan Reservoir. Porta also issued a warning for anyone thinking of going to the dam during the storm to observe the river.

“…the views of the Occoquan River can be quite dramatic during and after a storm. If you choose to see what things are like along the river, please exercise caution when doing so. The Occoquan High Dam is not a flood control dam; there are no sluice gates to regulate the flow of water from the reservoir. Consequently, whatever comes down the river is coming over the top of the dam at nature’s command, so please use sound judgment,” said Porta.

He also asked residents to check on neighbors during the storm.

Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department has tips on what to do before and during a flood:


  • Keep your automobile fueled.
  • Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit.
  • NOAA Weather Radio (battery-powered portable).
  • Extra batteries.
  • Change the batteries during spring and fall when you change your clocks (spring forward, fall back).
  • Flashlight.
  • Can opener (manual).
  • First-aid kit.
  • Canned food, non-perishable foods, bottled-water.
  • Rubber boots, rubber gloves.?
  • Additional clothing.
  • Develop a family evacuation plan.
  • Discuss the plan and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of flooding.


  • Get out of areas subject to flooding and seek higher ground.
  • Avoid underpasses, underground parking garages, and basements during or after heavy rains.
  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown (TADD).
  • DO NOT attempt to cross flowing streams.
  • NEVER drive through flooded roadways — six inches of water can stall a vehicle!
  • If your vehicle stalls, get out and move to higher ground.
  • 2 feet of moving water can sweep a vehicle, including SUVs, downstream!
  • If walking in water that is above your ankles, stop and turn around – six inches of rushing water can sweep you off your feet!
  • At night, be cautious when driving or walking, visibility is poor and it becomes harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Children should NEVER play around high water, storm drains, streams, ditches, etc.
  • When conditions are dangerous, DO NOT camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers, etc.

Slide Shows, Ideas Shared at Pecha Kucha Night


Occoquan Mayor Ernie Porta talks about his trip to Egypt to watch the “transit of Venus.” (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Occoquan, Va. –– What can you talk about in six minutes? A lot.


About 30 people gathered at Occoquan Town Hall on Saturday night for the Pecha Kucha Nature Night (pronounced Peeka-Coocha) to share some of their favorite photographs taken in nature and the stories that go with them.

Elected officials and residents alike all made slideshow presentations that each lasted six minutes, with each of the slides showing for no more than 20 seconds a piece.

Occoquan Ernie Porta presented a slideshow about a trip he and his wife took in 2004 to Eqypt to watch the “transit of Venus.” With pictures taken with a camera and his telescope, Porta wowed the audience as he showed the small black dot (Venus) pass in front of the enormous sun.

It took about five hours for the planet to pass across the sun, and earthbound people will be able to witness the “transit” again on June 5 and 6 in Hawaii, he said.

Back here on earth, Liz Cronauer of the Fairfax County Park Authority made her presentation on sustainable trails.

“One of the most common problems we come across is that people try to put trails on flat land, but the land is too flat. Sustainable trails need to be built on hills with a 60 percent slope, which is quite steeper than most people think,” said Cronauer.

She also showed examples of how many flat trails often become areas for water to pool after rain storms.

Pecha Kucha means “chitter chatter” in Japanese, said Prince William Conversation Alliance Executive Director Kim Hosen.

This is the latest in a series of Pecha Kucha events held by the alliance.

Occoquan Spring Craft Show Returns

The sidewalks are swept clean in Occoquan. (File photo)

Occoquan, Va. –– One of the things to look for this weekend at the annual Occoquan Spring Craft Show are new vendors.

More than 270 vendors from points all across the U.S. are expected to descend on Occoquan this Saturday and Sunday, many of the newer ones will be artists and glass pottery makers.

Of course, you’ll still be able to find time-honored favorites at the show like can’t-get ‘em anywhere else handcrafted products and quilts, said the show’s director, Pat Thomas.

“It’s a unique show that features a lot of things you just can’t get commercially,” said Thomas.

This is the 42nd year the show has been staged in the town on the first weekend in June, and the spring show is usually a bit smaller than the fall show held each year during the last weekend in September.

“During the fall show, I think everyone is in the holiday mindset because we have a lot of Christmas-themed items on display,” said Thomas.

But there will be plenty to do this weekend, with crafters, food for almost every appetite, and live entertainment at the Coffee House of Occoquan.

To get the fair, it’s best to use one of the many shuttle buses that will serve nearby commuter lots every 15 to 20 minutes.

Fair goers can park in the Old Hechinger’s Commuter lot at Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123) and Old Bridge Road, the commuter lot just off Interstate 95 at mile post 160, the parking lot at the Vulcan quarry in Lorton, or at the Tacketts Mill Shopping Center in Lake Ridge.

The free show hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Georgetown Moves Race to Occoquan


Occoquan Reservoir

Lorton, Va. ––The waters of the Potomac River have been running more rapidly and brown the past few weeks.

That has prompted Georgetown University to move their scheduled boat race to Occoquan Reservoir.

See the university’s full statement about the relocation below:

The Georgetown University women’s rowing team has moved its originally scheduled Class of 1998 Cup race against George Washington and George Mason to Sunday morning on the Occoquan Reservoir in Lorton, Va.
The race been moved from its original site in Washington, D.C. due to the current instability of the Potomac River.

Georgetown and George Washington will compete for the Class of 1998 Cup, while the Hoyas, Colonials and Patriots will be competing for the George’s Trophy, which will be awarded to the best overall team.

Sunday’s Racing Schedule: 9:00am – Third varsity eight race (Georgetown third varsity vs. George Washington vs. Georgetown fourth varsity) 9:15am- B4 (George Washington vs. Georgetown lightweights) 9:30am- Varsity four (George Washington, George Mason, Georgetown) 9:45am- Junior varsity eight (George Washington,George Mason, Georgetown) 10:00am- Varsity eight (George Washington, George Mason, Georgetown)

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