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Stafford

Residents Weigh in on Wider U.S. 1 Linking Prince William, Stafford

Jack Von Dop, of the Federal Highway Administration, presents the results and proposed goals of a road-widening project along U.S. 1 in Stafford and Prince William counties. Von Dop briefed area residents about the study results during a public information meeting tuesday evening at Hilldrup Moving and Storage in Stafford. [Photo; Keith Walker / For Potomac Local News]

By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – People are starting to look at future improvements to U.S. 1 between Joplin Road in Prince William County to Russell Road in Stafford County.

As can be imagined, a lot of factors would need consideration before starting the road-widening project.

Jack Van Dop, of the Federal Highway Administration, outlined some of those issues during a public hearing at Hilldrup Moving and Storage in Stafford County Tuesday night.

Costs of buying rights-of-way, cultural and social impacts as well as protecting streams and waterways all come into play in any road project, but right now, Van Dop the project is in its beginning phase.

“This is really a phase step one of a planning study versus the environmental design-construction schedule,” Van Dop told the audience of about 40 people who attended the meeting.

Van Dop said that previous public meetings in May and October of 2012, showed that people along the corridor are most concerned about congestion at the Joplin Road entrance to Quantico Marine Corp Base, impacts on local businesses and residents, access to Interstate 95 and the need for safe bicycle and pedestrian walkways and paths.

In addition to widening U.S. 1 from four to six lanes to accommodate increasing congestion in Stafford’s Bowell’s Corner area Telegraph Road, there is also discussion about how to improve nearby Russell Road that leads to the back entrance to Quantico.

Several improvements are under consideration:

1. Place two signal lights on Russell Road – one where traffic accesses southbound U.S. 1 and the other near the gate where traffic accesses northbound U.S. 1.

2. Construct a cloverleaf interchange at U.S. 1 and Russell Road

3. Construct a half cloverleaf on the northbound side of U.S. 1 and place a signal light on Russell Road where drivers access southbound U.S. 1.

Terry Heilman, of Widewater, attended the meeting and said he found it informative.

“I just wanted to see what was proposed,” said the retired U.S. Army Master Sgt.

Heilman went on to say that he thought the project, which Van Dop said has yet to be funded, will eventually come about.

“In the long run, I’m sure it needs to be done. It’ll be somewhat painful for a while,” Heilman said.

Rebecca Dixon, a nurse who works at Fort Belvoir, said she hopes that protecting the environment gets due consideration.

“I worry about the wetlands,” said Dixon, who lives in Stafford County.

Still she recognizes the project needs to move forward.

“I think it’s necessary because … it’s already very congested at the peak times,” she said

Dixon said she favored including walkways and paths along the highway, but wasn’t optimistic they would be included in any future road widening project.

“I feel that we really need to be concerned about the homes here and pedestrians and bicyclists. I think we really do need to incorporate some things to accommodate the public in a safe way. I think it’s a low priority from what I’m seeing,” she said.

Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Public Affairs, said the state would ultimately be in charge of allocating any money to the project since federal funds go through the states.

“They’re always in charge of deciding which project will get acted upon,” Hecox said.

Van Dop told people who attended the meeting that the next steps would include aerial mapping and trying to find money for design and construction.

For now though, the feasibility study only shows only what might happen if the project proceeds, Hecox said.

“This purely an analysis on ‘what if.’” It’s if they decide do it, what would it take to do it?” he said.

Mega Mike: Expect I-95 Lane Closures All Week

By MIKE SALMON
Virginia Megaprojects 

Hear ye, hear ye, the Virginia Megaprojects is closing all lanes of Interstate 95 south at Quantico for one hour!

Do I have your attention now? As part of the 95 Express Lanes project, the Telegraph Road bridge in the Quantico area is being demolished and replaced with another overpass that will span both the north and south bound lanes of I-95 as well as the future Express Lanes.

• Monday, April 1, the Telegraph Road highway overpass over I-95 will close for nine months. This closure will allow crews to rebuild a new Telegraph Road bridge that will span the future 95 Express Lanes. This closure will have localized impacts and a long-term detour will be in place via Russell Road or U.S. 1.

• Demolition will also begin as early as Monday, April 1 requiring multiple lane closures on I-95 South. Motorists should expect delays. This will continue for the next couple of weeks.

• In addition to the multiple lane closures, on or about Friday, April 5, crews will close all lanes on I-95 South at Telegraph Road in the overnight hours for one-hour so the steel girders can be demolished. I-95 southbound traffic will be detoured from Russell Road to Route 1 to Garrisonville Road and back to I-95 south.

Drivers should expect delays and are urged to avoid the area. The following week, Friday, April 12, this work is scheduled to shift to the northbound side and I-95 North will be closed in the overnight hours for 30 minutes at a time.

All road construction is weather dependent, visit vamegaprojects.com for updated schedules.

 

McDonnell Amends Texting Bill Soon to Become Law

Va. 610 at I-95 in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

By URIAH KISER

McDonnell

McDonnell

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Police in Virginia are one step closer to being able to stop you if they see you using your cell phone to text behind the wheel.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell Tuesday amended a measure championed by Prince William County Delegate Richard Anderson that will make it a first offense to text and drive, giving police to slap higher fines of $125 for first offenders and $250 for second time offenders.

With the governor’s amendment, the first and second offense fines originally set as part of Anderson’s bill at $250 and $500, respectively, were reduced after McDonnell stepped to and amended the bill before signing he signs it into law. Subsequent offenders face fines ranging from $50 to $500.

081112-Rich-Anderson

Anderson

McDonnell on Tuesday said he hopes to get more guidelines from law enforcement officials on what constitutes stopping a person when seen using their phone.

“This bill is confined to texting while driving. People can and will continue to use their phones to talk, to play tick-tack-toe… we need to have a consensus from law enforcement on when are stopped when they’re suspected to texting from their phones,” McDonnell told Potomac Local News.

A total of seven legislators from across the state submitted texting bills during this year’s General Assembly in Richmond. All were rolled into the bill put forth by Anderson, who navigated it through the legislature.

“Through the eyes of others who have lost family members to texting drivers, and my own observations while driving on a frequent and regular basis between my Prince William home and the Virginia State Capitol, I’ve seen firsthand the statewide threat posed by texters behind the wheel,” said Anderson. “I’ve seen the pain in the eyes of my Woodbridge neighbors who lost their brother to a texting driver, and my real focus has been to protect Virginia families and prevent the needless loss of life and personal injury that has resulted in the commonwealth.”

The neighbors in which Anderson refers to were two sisters from Lake Ridge who spoke with Anderson last year, following the failure of Anderson’s 2012 bill that elevated texting while driving from a secondary to a primary offense, who told them about their brother who was killed after being involved in a crash with another driver who was texting behind the wheel.

7-Eleven Stores to Benefit from $5 Million Greencore Expansion in Stafford County

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell presents a state flag to Greencore CEO Liam McLennon after announcing the Dublin, Ireland-based business will expand in Virginia. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

By URIAH KISER

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – A company based in Dublin, Ireland will expand it’s Stafford County headquarters by 350 employees using $150,000 in state and local grant money.

Governor Robert F. McDonnell came to Stafford County on Tuesday to announce the expansion of Greencore, PLC. – a company that sits just outside Fredericksburg that produces food products for grocery stores – including it’s largest client of 20 years, 7-Eleven convenience stores. The expansion is a $5.75 million investment by the company in the local workforce, as Greencore will hire more employees and purchase new manufacturing equipment.

The announcement was made after nine months of negotiations, and a trip that brought the deal’s key players, like McDonnell and Stafford County Economic Development Chief Tim Baroody, to Irelend to meet with company CEO Liam McLennon.

“I am thankful that you chose to do buisiness here… you had options but you chose Virginia, and we thank you,” McDonnell told McLennon.

A key part of the expansion in Stafford County, said McDonnell, is access to local agriculture, which is the state’s largest industry bringing in $80 million a year.

McLennon said 30% of all food that is made at their facility will come from local farms.

“You’re only as good as the food you get, so we wanted to use locally produced food, and keep open the option to expand to more than 30% local food usage as we grow,” said McLennon. “We want to give our customers more options, as they’re looking for more healthy options with more fruits and vegetables.”

The $150,000 grant includes $75,000 in state funds, and the same amount in local matching funds from Stafford County. It’s part of of $350 million in grants that have been awarded to businesses in Virginia in the past 10 years, each of which have an average return of $9.6 on every grant dollar awarded.

“People are very insecure in this economy, so that’s why it’s so important for us to be able to get everyone together, go out and compete for these economic development projects and win,” said Virginia Economic Development Partnership President Martin J. Briley.

The money used to facilitate Greencore’s grant come from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development fund, one of more than five funds at the state level reserved for economic development.

Following the speeches, McDonnell presented McLennon a box with a Virginia flag inside.

“Because budget times are so tight, we didn’t include a flag pole. We thought maybe you could spirng for that,” joked McDonnell.

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Virginia Speaker of the House Bill Howell welcomes Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to the podium. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

350 New Jobs Coming to Stafford County

RICHMOND Va. — A press release sent this evening from the governor’s office means good news for Stafford County as well as nearby residents looking for work.

More in an edited press release:

Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that Greencore Group PLC, an Ireland-based, leading international manufacturer of convenience foods, will invest $5.75 million to expand its first Virginia food processing facility in Stafford County following the April 2012 acquisition of the former Marketfare Foods, LLC. In addition to servicing Marketfare Foods’ principal customer of 20 years, 7-Eleven, Greencore will also service a significant new contract from the Stafford County operation, creating 350 new jobs.

McDonnell met with Greencore Group officials at the headquarters in Dublin, Ireland during a July 2012 marketing mission.

Speaking about today’s announcement, McDonnell said, “Last July I met with Greencore Group in Ireland to discuss the recent acquisition of Marketfare Foods and the potential to expand the operation in order to serve the company’s newest significant contract from the Stafford County plant. Successfully competing for this project against other locations is a great testament to the opportunity Greencore sees for its Virginia operation to provide new capabilities in the fast-growing food-to-go category and extend the company’s geographic footprint along the East Coast. We celebrate 350 new job opportunities and a resulting increase in volume for Virginia-grown produce that will greatly benefit the Commonwealth’s agricultural producers in the region.”

“Greencore Group’s new Virginia operation represents an excellent opportunity for the continued expansion of the company’s convenience food business in the U.S.,” said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “Stafford County offers the right location with an existing facility and infrastructure, and convenient proximity to key customers. We are confident in Greencore’s future success in the Commonwealth, and look forward to further enhancing the partnership between Virginia and Ireland.”

“Greencore’s expansion in Stafford County is a victory for both economic development and increased agricultural production in Virginia,” said Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “During meetings with Greencore officials in Ireland and Massachusetts last year, it became clear that the Greencore’s expansion would benefit Virginia by creating more jobs at the facility and by generating more opportunities for our agricultural producers to supply the company. Greencore will be served well by expanding in Virginia and sourcing more high-quality Virginia grown products, such as cabbage, peppers, and other commodities from our outstanding family farmers.”

Greencore is a leading manufacturer of convenience food with 22 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and the U.K. These facilities produce a wide range of products including food to go, chilled prepared meals, quiche, cakes and pasta sauces for all of the major retailers in the U.K. as well as a number of regional outlets in the U.S. Greencore employs more than 11,000 people in the U.K., the U.S. and Ireland. Greencore was established in Ireland in 1991 following the privatization of the Irish sugar industry and in 2001 it acquired U.K. food manufacturer Hazlewood Foods. From 2001 to 2008 Greencore underwent a major transition from an agri-based business to a focused convenience foods manufacturer; and in 2008 Greencore entered the U.S. market with the acquisition of Home Made Brand Foods in Massachusetts.

In 2010 Greencore acquired a further business in Massachusetts, but it was the acquisitions of MarketFare Foods, with its sites in Stafford County and Salt Lake City, as well as the acquisition of HC Schau in Florida and Chicago, that saw that Greencore would become a key player in the U.S. market. The key focus of Greencore’s business in the U.S. is food to go for a major convenience store chain as well as a new major foodservice customer. Greencore USA is headquartered in Danvers, Massachusetts and currently employs in excess of 1,000 across its six U.S., sites.

“Greencore is absolutely delighted to be making this investment in its facility in Stafford County,” said Liam McClennon, CEO for Greencore USA. “Virginia offers an excellent environment for us to invest in further growth in our Fredericksburg plant. In addition to the skills and capabilities of our current workforce, Virginia offers us a great pool of talent to support our recruitment plans, as well as the availability of high quality local products and ingredients, which we can use in our finished products. Furthermore, the County offers business friendly policies and an excellent transport and logistics network, which is critical to the success of Greencore. I would like to thank the governor and his team for their support and for making Greencore feel welcome in Virginia.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Stafford County to secure the project for Virginia. McDonnell approved $75,000 from the governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, a grant administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and made to businesses that add value to Virginia-grown agricultural and forestal products. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment, training and retraining activities.

“Economic development is one of Stafford’s strongest assets, and we pride ourselves in our efforts to diversify our tax base,” said Stafford Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Bob Thomas, whose George Washington District is home to Greencore’s plant in Stafford County. “Greencore adds to that diversity while bringing new employment opportunities and investment to our community. It also helps put Stafford on the global stage with the international market. We now have more than 2,250 businesses, and are Commonwealth-leading in business and job growth (by percentage of growth) in Virginia. Thanks to our aggressive economic development program, as well as our business retention and expansion efforts, almost 38,000 people can say they work in Stafford. Thanks to Greencore, that number is growing. We wish them continued success and look forward to working with them on future endeavors.”

Campground, Museum, Festival Options to Kick Start Springtime

By STEPHANIE TIPPLE

While the continuation of the winter chill and the unexpected snow may make you inclined to stay inside with your children this spring break, there are some events going on in the Northern Virginia area that are worth getting out of your pajamas for. All of these events are children and family friendly, and affordable – a definite plus.

If you and your children love to be outdoors, then you’re in luck. Locally in Prince William County, take a day to visit the Prince William Forest Park. The miles of green are an excellent place to take a picnic, go on a bike ride or even go fishing, for a $5 daily entrance fee. And if you’re children have their heart set on taking a trip, you can rent a campsite in the tents-only Oak Ridge Campground for $20 per night; a budget friendly alternative.

The D.C. area is known for their cherry blossoms, and with them the Cherry Blossom Festival, every year. It’s near the peak of the cherry blossom season, making it a perfect time to take a drive up Interstate 95 and have a look for yourself. While the Festival isn’t until mid-April this free activity is popular with children of all ages and an opportunity to take a few family snapshots.

While you may believe that you have to drive up to D.C. to bring your children to a fun and educational museum, there are actually local options worth checking out. The Weems-Botts Museum, located in Dumfries, is on land that has been a part of the town since before the Revolutionary War, as well as being home to George Washington’s first biographer. For a $4 fee for adults, $2.50 for children ages six to 16, and free admission for children under 6, you can have a guided tour that is informative as much as it is fun.

If you want to celebrate Easter with your family during spring break, then take a trip to Ticonderoga Farms for their Spring Easter Festival. The farm, located in Chantilly, will have photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny, and egg hunts for the whole family every weekend. For weekend activities, which include hayrides and picking your own flowers, it costs $11.95.

 

Stafford Teachers Educated on Guns, Surviving a School Shooting

Captain Rod Davis demonstrates the operation of AR 15 assault rifle and other firearms on display at to teachers at a special seminar at North Stafford High School. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

By URIAH KISER

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – In the event of a school shooting, it can be survival of the fittest.

That’s why officials in Stafford County worked to exercise the minds of teachers and school administrators, to prepare them for the possibility of an armed intruder who could potentially kill them and their students.

A special seminar was held Thursday night at North Stafford High School for teachers from across the county. A partnership between the schools and sheriff’s department, it was billed as the first of its kind in the state following the school shooting that killed 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

A retired Stafford sheriff’s deputy, 1st Sgt Frank Martello, told teachers who don’t normally confront violent situations that they need to be prepared to run, hide or fight in the event of an active shooter situation at their schools. In many cases, attackers are thwarted before police arrive, so its important teachers have a plan and know what to do.

“If we have police on the scene in two minutes and you have an active shooter, that could be one minute and 58 seconds too late,” said Martello. “We will get there and we will find you. But the idea is to find you while you are still alive… inaction is not an option.”

Teachers were urged to go back to their classrooms following the training and take inventory of anything that could be used as a weapon and locate anything that would provide cover to hide behind in the event on an armed intruder. A chair is one of the weapon teachers were suggested to use, but it’s not the only one.

“…look around… almost anything, with a little practice, can be used as a weapon,” said Martello.

Profile of a possible school shooter

This countywide training is the first of many new security initiatives planned for the schools, said Sheriff Charles E. Jett. It wasn’t held in response to a specific threat but due to concerns about improved security in the county’s schools. Such improvements might include placing large numbers over every school entrance to make it easier for public safety crews to respond to shooting victims and giving police access to hallway security cameras at schools.

“There are a lot of things you don’t know about, and then there are a lot of things you know about that we don’t,” said Jett, urging cooperation and better communication between teachers and law enforcement.

School shootings are nothing new, with the first in the U.S. dating back to 1927 when 38 children were shot and killed, said Martello. Since then, in mass shootings like Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007 and Sandy Hook in December, the shooters all had things in common, said Martello:

-Male

-Psychopathic

-Delusional

-Usually bullied in past

-Did not threaten victims

-Showed prior behavior / told others about idea to attack

-Did not intend to survive shooting incident

Teachers who attended the training said they’ve been teaching behind locked doors since Sandy Hook. They also wanted to know when it’s OK to act if a child seems suspicious.

“I already have children that fit into that profile,” said Laurie Gildstead, a second-grade teacher. “We need more awareness in the schools because, as teachers, we have to teach more than just the basic subjects, we have to teach basic manners to children who have parents who want to be their ‘friend’ and not their parent.”

Martello said the burden falls on the teacher, or those who spend the most time around the child, to report suspicious behavior.

What to report in during a shooting

If the worse happens, it’ll also be up to the people inside to report accurate and helpful information to law enforcement who will be charged with immediately entering the building and disarming the shooter. Police will want to know things like:

Are there any hostages?

Is there a barricade?

Have you heard any explosions others than gunfire?

Where is the shooter inside of the building?

When was the last time you saw the shooter?

What kind of weapon did the shooter have?

That last question about the type of weapon prompted Martello to show a variety of weapons – such as shotguns, rifles and handguns – so teachers would have a better understanding of what firearms look like and how to better described them to 911 call takers.

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Denise Miller, a H.H. Pool Middle School Counselor, takes a shot gun in hand at the training for emergency preparedness held at North Stafford High School on Thursday night. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Stafford Schools Opening 2 Hours Late Tuesday

STAFFORD, Va. -- Students in Stafford County on Tuesday will have an abbreviated schedule as schools will open two hours late.

The delayed opening means there will be no morning preschool classes for the system; however, there is no change to afternoon preschool classes.

Stafford students had Monday off from school as two inches of snow fell on the area. Next week, students in Stafford will be on spring break.

Sheriff’s Office Recovers Body at Belle Plains Property

The remains of Jason Plaster were found on the property of 881 Belle Plains Road. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

By KJ MUSHUNG

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office reports that over the weekend of March 23, they recovered what are believed to be human remains of one person. The remains were located on the property of 881 Belle Plains Road in the White Oak area of Stafford County, which has been seen swarmed by police activity in recent days.

A resident of that property, Dennis Paul Benzie, was arrested earlier this month for drug and gun-related charges. Stafford County courts system lists 12 charges so far. Law enforcement officials have not said whether Benzie is a suspect in the death of the person’s whose body was recovered or whether that person appeared to have died from gunshot wounds.

The remains were taken to the chief medical examiner’s office in Richmond for an autopsy, identification and cause of death, according to a press release.

The release also said that an extensive search of the property was conducted after police received and followed up on information, which led to the recovery.

The sheriff’s office has information to the identity of the individual found but will not be releasing it until a positive identification is determined and next of kin is notified.

According to police, the remains appear to have been there for some time, although a time frame wasn’t clarified, and the gender of the individual is currently unknown.

The sheriff’s office is treating this case as a homicide. No charges have been filed, however detectives are following up on leads.

A gate at the entrance was locked with a “No trespassing” sign.

Calls to the sheriff’s office were not returned by post time.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the Stafford Sheriff Office 540-658-4400 or call Crime Solvers at 540-659-2020 or text “Stafford + your tip” to CRIMES (274637).

Meetings Set for U.S. 1 Projects in Dumfries, Stafford

Future of U.S. 1 topic of two public meetings this week

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Officials that want to improve U.S. 1 will hold public meetings this week to show what they plan to do.

First up is a meeting about widening the highway in the gap between Prince William and Stafford counties – linking Triangle and Stafford County’s Boswell’s Corner areas, as well as both the main and back gates of Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Since the relocation of more than 6,000 federal workers to Quantico as part of BRAC, traffic volumes during peak periods have increased on U.S. 1 at Boswell’s Corner.

During Tuesday’s meeting, federal and local officials are seeking feedback on what to do along this stretch roadway. Specifically, at Russell Road and U.S. 1 where drivers access Quantico’s back gate, three improvements have been proposed:

1. Place two signal lights on Russell Road – one where traffic accesses southbound U.S. 1 and the other near the gate where traffic accesses northbound U.S. 1.

2. Construct a cloverleaf interchange at U.S. 1 and Russell Road

3. Construct a half cloverleaf on the northbound side of U.S. 1 and place a signal light on Russell Road where drivers access southbound U.S. 1.

This third and final public meeting on this project comes after officials conducted a wide-ranging study on how to improve the corridor, which is becoming more populated with military, federal workers, and contractors who have relocated to the Quantico Corporate Center at Boswell’s Corner.

The meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hilldrup Moving and Storage on 4022 Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. 1) in North Stafford.

Improvements are also planned for U.S. 1 in Dumfries, specifically improvements at the busy intersection of U.S. 1, Curtis Drive, and Graham Park Road, will mean more turn lanes, a new northbound lane, and sidewalk improvements.

More in a statement from Dumfries’ Public Works Department:

The project elements include:

• An additional turn lane on Graham Park Road between Fraley Boulevard and Main Street

• An additional left turn lane on southbound Main Street

• Creation of a northbound lane on Main Street from Tebbs Lane to Curtis Drive/Graham Park Road

• Sidewalks and improved crosswalks

• Replacing the traffic signals at Graham Park Road/Curtis Drive and Main Street and Fraley Boulevard/Graham Park Road.

That northbound lane on Main Street, from Trebbs Lane to Graham Park Road, will mean the widening of U.S. 1 south (Main Street) from two to three lanes in. Once complete, it’ll mirror the southbound portion of U.S. 1 that runs in front of Town Hall, with two southbound lanes and one lane headed north.

Head-On Collision Injures Several, Shuts Down Road

A crash closed a portion of Stefaniga and Popular roads in Stafford County this morning. [Submitted photo]

By KJ MUSHUNG

STAFFORD, Va. – A head-on collision between a pickup truck and an SUV injured at least three people and shut down a road in western Stafford County today. The accident occurred before noon at the intersection of Poplar and Stefaniga roads, shutting down Stefaniga in both directions.

According to initial reports, at least three people appeared to be injured. One was transported to Stafford Hospital. One of the drivers and a second person were evaluated by emergency personnel at the scene but refused to be taken to the hospital.

A call to the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office was not immediately returned.

A witness to the crash said heavy snow was falling at the time of the collision and visibility was greatly reduced. 

Stafford Sees Nearly 2 Inches of Snow

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

By MARY DAVIDSON

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – About two inches of snow fell in Stafford County overnight and into this morning. With no concerns about commuting into work, these horses near Va. 610 seemed to have no worries about the white stuff.

The old barn is on Emerald Downs Farm off Garrisonville Road in Stafford.

 

Closings, Cancellations & Delays for Monday, March 25, 2013

Prince William County

– Prince William County Public Schools closed. Code Red for employees. All school division activities are cancelled. The School Age Care Program will not open.

Stafford County

– Stafford County Public Schools closed. Code 1 employees. 

– Woodlands Pool opening two hours late at 10 a.m. All morning pool programs canceled. 

Colleges and universities

– George Mason University opening 10 a.m.

– University of Mary Washington opening 10 a.m.

Military installations

– Quantico Marine Corps Base – Code Yellow: 2-hour delay

– Fort Belvoir — Open 

Federal government

– Offices open on time 

Airports 

Click here to see Dulles International Airport departures 

Click here to see Regan Washington National Airport departures

Click here to see BWI departures 

Click here to see Richmond International Airport flight information 

Snow Piles Up for Morning Commute

Snow fell in North Stafford on Sunday afternoon. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

9:30 a.m. Monday 

A heavy, wet now fell across the region overnight making for a picturesque morning commute for those called into to work.

Storm advisories went up for Prince William and Stafford counties as the snow fell, prompting school closings and cancellations. Today’s snow also comes as Prince William students are on spring break.

Snow totals ranged between an inch and two inches. In Gainesville, three inches of snow fell. Two inches of snow fell in Montclair, and 1.5 inches fell in the rural Arkendale area of Stafford County along the Potomac River, according to the National Weather Service.

More to the Story: See our slideshow of the snow captured at Emerald Downs Farm in Stafford County. 

Throughout the day today snow is expected to changeover to rain, but a changeover back to snow is expected after 5 p.m., with all of the precipitation clearing after 8 p.m.

Rain and snow showers are possible again tomorrow with high temperatures ranging in the mid 40′s.

7:15 p.m.

Road crews say they are ready for the snow that is already falling across the region. 

More in a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation:

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews are mobilizing at midnight in the Fredericksburg area and the western end of the Middle Peninsula to clear and treat roads in advance of a predicted snow and rain mix on Monday morning.

VDOT crews will target Interstate 95 and primary roads first, keeping these lanes open for travel during the morning rush hour.

Along the Northern Neck and the eastern Middle Peninsula, VDOT crews remain ready to deploy as needed depending on weather conditions.

Motorists should use caution, and stay alert for slick or icy road conditions, especially on bridges, ramps and overpasses, which can freeze first.

5:15 p.m. 

We’re not under any watches or warnings but the threat of snow looms for the region.

Up to an inch of snow could fall on the area overnight and through tomorrow as a storm is expected to redevelop and impact the Mid-Atlantic.

According to the storm timing, snow will begin tonight and continue into the overnight hours. After 9 a.m. Monday, snow will mix will rain throughout the day and gradually ending after 7 p.m.

Snow showers are also possible on Tuesday. Temperatures will range in the high 30s to mid 40s on both days.

The storm is moving out of the Mid-Mississippi and Ohio valleys and into the Appalachian Mountains. The storm is expected to redevelop over the Atlantic Ocean and become a coastal storm that will also impact the Northeast.

Just a friendly reminder: Spring began on Wednesday.

The snowfall forecast for Northern Virginia for Sunday night into Monday, March 25, 2013. [Image: National Weather Service]

The snowfall forecast for Northern Virginia for Sunday night into Monday, March 25, 2013. [Image: National Weather Service]

Video: Fireball Lights Up Night Sky

*Video above taken by a home security camera in Thurmont, Md.

Bright lights in the sky: that’s what people across the east coast Friday night reported seeing.

The American Meteor Society said those lights came from a incoming meteor, or fireball, still high in the sky.

The meteor was so high it was seen from Boston to Washington, and that sent people tweeting and posting to Facebook, as well as notifying the American Meteor Society which posted more info on what people saw:

The American Meteor Society has received over 500 reports of a bright meteor that occurred near 2000 (8:00pm EDT) on Friday evening March 22, 2013. The witnesses range from along the Atlantic coast ranging from Maine to North Carolina. This object was also seen as far inland as Ohio. Individual reports may be viewed in the 2013 AMS Fireball Table. Refer to event #667 for 2013.

For those not familiar with meteors and fireballs, a fireball is a meteor that is larger than normal. Most meteors are only the size of small pebbles. A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere. Even the slowest meteors are still traveling at 10 miles per SECOND, which is much faster than a speeding bullet. Fireballs occur every day over all parts of the Earth. It is rare though for an individual to see more than one or two per lifetime as they also occur during the day, on a cloudy night, or over a remote area where no one sees it. Observing during one of the major annual meteor showers can increase your chance of seeing another one of these bright meteors.

The meteor was seen as far away as Ohio and Canada, and it’s expected to have entered the atmosphere somewhere near Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and was no longer visible as it crashed the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey.

See maps of the path of the meteor and cities and locations that reported seeing the fireball

Gaping Hole in Bridge Repaired

The Falmouth Bridge links Stafford County with Fredericksburg via U.S. 1. Drivers closest to the camera are headed south. [Photo: Uriah Kiser  / Potomac Local News]

By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News

FALMOUTH, Va. – A hole opened up in eastbound lane of the Chatham Bridge on Saturday, but Virginia Department of Transportation Officials say everything is fine now.

According to VDOT engineer Marcie Parker, police called VDOT’s transportation and operation center and reported the 2-foot by 3-foot hole through the deck of the bridge on Va. 3 that crosses the Rappahannock River between Stafford and Fredericksburg.

“Once we arrived on scene, we closed the lane off and investigated and put a plate over the top of it. We kept the lane closed because we were concerned that our plate wasn’t going to be large enough,” Parker said.

According to Parker, the Fredericksburg Public Works Department helped by bringing in extra steel plates.

“On Sunday we went down and put all the additional plates in and then put some asphalt cold-patch around them to kind of lock them into place and we were able to open the lane again,” Parker said.

Parker said that VDOT recognizes that the Chatham and Falmouth bridges — both of which link Stafford to Fredericksburg via Routes 3 and 1, respectively, are “aging structures and will need replacement sooner than later.”

During a scheduled VDOT quarterly update on Tuesday, Parker briefed the Stafford County Board of Supervisors about the weekend bridge repair and told them that the hole that opened on the bridge Saturday in spite of recent maintenance.

“We did extensive work in the fall. We took all of the asphalt off the bridge and did a bunch of patching of the areas that needed patching at that time and we put brand new asphalt on the bridge,” Parker said. “The area that failed this weekend was not one of the areas we patched because it was good at the time. Now it is not.”

Parker said VDOT engineers will inspect the bridge again shortly.

“That does have us concerned a little bit,” Parker said of the hole in the bridge deck. “That’s why we’re going to go through and do another inspection of the bridge to see if there are any other areas de-laminated. I would think they would be done in the next couple of weeks.”

Parker said the bridge repairs, which included pouring concrete and replacing asphalt, were scheduled to be completed Wednesday afternoon.

3 Dead in Quantico Shooting

Vehicles that had been held for nearly three hours after the active shooter incident began were allowed to leave the base just before 3 a.m. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Breaking News

By URIAH KISER

Update 4:20 a.m.

We now know all three of the victims in this case are Marines, and that the shooter took his own life.

Once Quantico officials were alerted to the first shooting victim of this attack about 11 p.m. Thursday, authorities swarmed the area of the Officer Candidate School on Quantico Marine Corps Base. The gunman barricaded himself inside the barracks of the school while police waited outside.

Two hours after the incident began, military police with the help of Prince William police entered the barracks to find a second victim dead from a gunshot wound. The male shooter — who is believed to have shot and killed both victims — was also found inside dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said 1st Lt. Agustin Solivan.

The two shooting victims have not been identified.

Base officials and police are expected to make a statement on what transpired here this morning outside the National Museum of the Marine Corps. 

Update 4 a.m. 

Three people are dead following a shooting at Quantico Marine Corps Base, including the shooter.

Quantico spokesman 1st Lt. Agustin Solivan confirms that police that were called to the base shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday later found the shooter and two other victims. It appears two of the victms were shot by the suspect, but it’s still unclear how the suspect was killed. 

All three are believed to be Marines. 

We’re told Quantico Commander David Maxwell is slated to speak about what happened here overnight. Officials from the Prince William County Police Department that assisted base officials during the incident are also slated to speak. 

More as we have it.

Update 3 a.m.

The all-clear has been sounded at Quantico. A line of cars that had been held at the Marine Corps Base’s main gate were allowed to exit, nearly three hours after incident began.

Security at Quantico's main gate remains tight as no one is allowed on or off base. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Security at Quantico’s main gate remains tight as no one is allowed on our off base. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Update 2:20 a.m.

A local transit bus, an OmniLink bus that serves the tiny Town of Quantico – the only town in the U.S. located within a major military installation – was just allowed to exit the base.

With an SUV trailing behind it as it drove away from the main gate, the bus had been waiting on Fuller Road to exit the base since at least 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

Several vehicles remain lined up at the main gate and appear to be staging for an exit.

Update 1:30 a.m.

Some emergency vehicles can be seen leaving the scene, headed away from base on U.S. 1. Police cruisers still highly visible. 

Update 1:20 a.m.

While a heavy police presence remains at Qauntico’s main gate and on side streets, police officers that had been posted along Fuller Heights Road have now left the area.

More medic units have been seen entering the area from U.S. 1. All continue to head down Fuller Heights Road.

Update 1 a.m.

Loud speakers are sounding on base as a crackling voice provides instructions.

“Attention all Quantico residents: Stay in your residences,” the voice commands.

Those same instructions were repeated twice.  The speaker system appears to be apart of a base-wide warning system to provide updates to both military members and their families who live on base.

Quantico at this hour is is on threat condition Delta – the highest threat condition for any military base across this country. Delta is used to warn of potential or occurring terrorist attacks.

Condition Delta was also used on September 11, 2001, and it indicates only military personnel are allowed on and off base.

Several emergency vehicles have descended upon the Quantico Marine Corps Base and surrounding area. One medic unit from Prince William County could be seen with a police escort turning off U.S. 1 and then proceeding down Fuller Heights Road. Both the medic and police car came into the area with lights activated but no siren.

Police are posted along Fuller Heights Road in Triangle after a shooter was reported to be on the loose on Quantico Marine Corps Base. [Photo: Potomac Local News]

Police are posted along Fuller Heights Road in Triangle after a shooter was reported to be on the loose on Quantico Marine Corps Base. [Photo: Potomac Local News]

12:30 a.m. 

New information just in to Potomac Local News indicates the shooter is not in custody, however, military officials say they know where the suspect is.

The shooter, believed to be a Marine, has barricaded himself away from police. There is still little if any information on who the shooter might be, and there is still no update on the victim.

Prince William police officers who have been called to assist in this active shooter situation are posted along the length of Fuller Heights Road in Triangle. The road runs parallel to Fuller Road, the main thoroughfare on and off base. Just after midnight, a line of cars could be seen waiting to exit the base – including an OmniLink local transit bus.

The base was reported to be on lock down.

11:50  p.m.

QUANTICO, Va. – One person is injured tonight after a shooting on Quantico Marine Corps Base.

The shooting happened at 11 p.m. at the Officers Candidate School on base. One person is reported to have been shot, and the shooter is now in custody, said Quantico spokesman 1st Lt. Agustin Solivan.

The condition of the victim is unknown at this hour. Solivan said military police and Prince William police assisted in the apprehension of the suspect.

The base remains locked down at this hour.

More as we have it.

 

Benzie Faces Charges, Details Few

STAFFORD, Va. – Detectives in Stafford County filed charges against one man but details in the case are scarce.

A search warrant was carried out at a home at 881 Belle Plains Road in southern Stafford County on Thursday, March 14. While there, detectives arrested Dennis Paul Benzie on seven counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

Afterward, additional charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm while in possession of narcotics, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and marijuana possession, according to a statement from the Stafford sheriff’s office.

No additional information on why police believe Benzie is a suspect in the case was provided to protect the integrity of the investigation, according to officials. Benzie’s age was not provided.

Authorities added the Belle Plains community is not at risk.

Connolly: Postal Service Cannot Legally Cut Mail Delivery

Rep. Gerry E. Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William. [Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]

Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William has never liked the idea of reducing mail service from six to five days per week.

Now he said the move would simply be illegal, according to a report from the GAO.

More in a press release:

The claim by the Postmaster General that the U.S. Postal Service has the right to cut its mail delivery schedule from six-to-five days “rests upon a faulty USPS premise” and there is no legislative authority from Congress allowing the change, the Government Accountability Office said today in a legal opinion requested by Congressman Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11).

“The GAO legal opinion clearly rejects the Postal Service’s attempt to circumvent the law,” Connolly said.

In its letter to Connolly, GAO says that USPS is bound by current law and the current Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government requires “USPS to continue 6-day delivery and rural delivery of mail at not less than the 1983 level.”

“This impartial and definitive GAO legal opinion makes it crystal clear that USPS cannot operate outside the legislative authority of Congress and unilaterally implement a change in delivery service that many believe will not only disrupt mail service, but also exacerbate USPS revenue losses and contribute to the decline of this constitutionally-mandated service to all Americans,” Connolly said.

In February, the U.S. Postal Service announced it would reduce delivery service of regular mail to Monday through Friday only. Packages and mail addressed to P.O. Boxes would still be delivered on Saturdays.

 

Overnight Road Work to Cause I-95 Closures

Interstate 95 south at Dumfries [Photo: Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]

QUANTICO, Va. – Road crews plan to close a portion of Interstate 95 at Quantico this evening and overnight.

More in a press release:

Weather permitting, Thursday night March 21 (Friday morning March 22), Between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. the Virginia Department of Transportation will have intermittent full road closures on I-95 north and south near Exit 148, Russell Road, mile marker 148, for utility work. Closures will occur up to four times, lasting no longer than 15 minutes each to allow crews to relocate cable lines.

Motorists may experience minor delays. The last exit on I-95 north before the work zone is Exit 143, Garrisonville Road (Route 610), and on I-95 south the last exit is 150, Joplin Road (Route 619). Signs and message boards will be posted along the corridor to inform motorists of construction activities. State police will be onsite directing traffic.

Snow Looms as Area Greets 1st Day of Spring

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom on the corner of Garrisonville Road and Salisbury Drive in North Stafford. They are a welcome sight on this first day of spring. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Spring has sprung, we think. Wednesday marked the vernal equinox – the first day of spring.

Those who follow astronomy say it’s the most important day of the year, but for those firmly grounded on earth the date usually marks signs of warmer temperatures to come.

But a look at the extended forecast shows more possibilities for snow on Sunday night into Monday. All of this stems from approaching from Texas into the southern Gulf states to include a mix of snow, sleet, ice, and thunderstorms for portions further south. For us, unseasonably cold temperatures will remain in place making it feel more like January than spring, according to the National Weather Service.

Right now, it looks like we’ll see rain for most of Sunday, and then a mix of rain and snow Sunday night into Monday.

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom on the corner of Garrisonville Road and Salisbury Drive in North Stafford. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom on the corner of Garrisonville Road and Salisbury Drive in North Stafford. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

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