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Campaign Accused of Plagiarizing Website

A screenshot of 2nd District candidate Michael Futrell's website.

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – It’s early in the campaign season but already things are heating up in Virginia’s 2nd House District after some irregularities were found on a campaign website.

Democrat Michael Futrell is challenging Republican Mark Dudenhefer for the 2nd District seat, which spans portions of Stafford and eastern Prince William counties. But when similar text from Virginia House Minority Leader David Tuscano’s website appeared on Futrell’s on Tuesday, red flags went up.

On Futrell’s transportation issues page, the text began with an accurate statement about Futrell working as a traveling pharmaceutical company representative. But the text went on to mirror the same words used on Tuscano’s website that states state transportation officials “cannot build our way out of problems.”

On Futrell’s education issues page, there were references to Charlottesville and Albermarle County – areas represented by Tuscano.

Those pages have since been removed from Futrell’s website, and on Wednesday the Democrat chalked it up to an honest mistake made by a campaign worker.

“Our website was produced by a volunteer who used David Tuscano’s website as a template, as a way to show us what the final product would look like,” said Futrell.

He went on to say those pages were never meant to be published and were up for about a day. The volunteer who made the website is no longer working with the campaign, added Futrell.

“This has shown me the importance of hiring someone to do the job correctly,” said Futrell.

A representative from Tuscano’s office in Charlottesville said they were aware of the situation and provided the following comment via email: 

“Michael called my office and apologized. I understand that he was working on his website and various ideas for issue positions, and apparently borrowed from my website so he could develop his own language. Unfortunately, it went ‘live’ before he had developed his own language. His site had not been submitted to the caucus nor approved to go ‘live’, either by us or by the candidate.”

Dudenhefer’s campaign wasted no time in chiming in on the website issue and said Futrell plagiarized Tuscano’s website.

“Representing the people of Prince William and Stafford in the House of Delegates is an honor and privilege. The Second District has unique problems that require thoughtful consideration, not blindly copying the words of another delegate from another part of the Commonwealth,” stated Dudenhefer, who has held the office since 2010.

Futrell is best known in Prince William County for his Make the Future charity which works with area youth.


Chicago Man Charged in Stafford Rape Case Dating Back to 2000


STAFFORD, Va. – Detectives in Stafford County placed charges on a Chicago man tied to a rape reported more than 10 years ago.

On Nov. 12, 2000, Stafford deputies were called to the Garrison Woods neighborhood off Onville Road in North Stafford for a report of a woman who was raped at gunpoint. Authorities shortly thereafter launched an investigation into the crime but were unable to bring charges, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.

Fast forward to April 2012 when two Stafford County detectives received word from a forensic lab in Northern Virginia that DNA collected following a felony crime in Chicago a short time after the rape in Stafford matched evidence gathered at the rape scene. Detectives then researched their suspect and found that he lived in Chicago, and also learned he once served at Quantico Marine Corps Base, said Kennedy.

In November, detectives sent felony warrants for the arrest of 35-year-old Troy Lee Anderson, who was arrested by Chicago police on Feb. 20, 2013. On March 3, the two Stafford detectives heading up the investigation went to Chicago to get their man and to bring him back to Stafford County.

Anderson is charged with rape and with use of a firearm in commission of a felony, said Kennedy. He’s being held at the Rappahannock Regional Jail.

Hearing on VRE Fare Increase Set for Wednesday

121212 VRE

STAFFORD, Va. – The fare you pay to ride Virginia Railway Express could be going up.

A public hearing is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Stafford County Government Center’s conference room ABC where commuter railroad officials will gauge reaction to plans to hike fares as much as 4% staring in July.

The meeting was rescheduled from last Wednesday because of the storm that brought seven inches of snow to Stafford County.

VRE cites rising contract costs with service providers Keolis Rail Services of America, Amtrak, and CSX, as for the need to increase fares. The fare increase was recommended as a part of a budget review that will keep trains running at current levels, add an additional 10-car train to the system’s crowded Fredericksburg line, fund the purchase of new rail cars, and fund the opening of a new train station in Spotsylvania County.

If the new fares are approved for both of VRE’s train lines from Fredericksburg and Manassas, those riding from Fredericksburg to Washington’s Union Station would pay $11.10 for a one-way fare, $305.90 for a monthly pass. Those riding from Manassas to Union Station would pay $9.10 for a single ride, $250.80 for a monthly pass.

See the full proposed fare schedule for the Fredericksburg Line

See the full proposed fare schedule for the Manassas Line


Fire Engulfs House, Melts Siding on Nearby Homes


Update 3:45 p.m. Wednesday

Three juveniles now face charges in connection to a fire officials said was set intentionally.

Stafford County Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Mark Doyle did not identify the three charged, but he did say they are charged with carelessly setting fire to a property which is classified as a class four misdemeanor.

The fire caused $200,000 in damage as it burned one home and melted siding off two others. An estimated $1.2 million in property was saved thanks to the efforts of fire fighters, said Doyle.

8:40 a.m. 

STAFFORD, Va. – A fire broke out in the Seasons Landing area of Stafford County about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Fire crews were called to the residential fire at a two-story house off Sanctuary Lane near the Stafford County Courthouse. The blaze was threatening other homes in the area, and fire crews were able to bring the fire under control within 20 minutes, said Stafford fire Assistant Chief Mark Doyle.

The fire burned so hot that exterior siding on nearby homes sustained damage. Doyle said the fire remains under investigation and that no one was injured in the blaze.


Driver in Aquia Harbour Crash Sentenced



STAFFORD, Va. – Daniel Ringler appeared in front of the Honorable Michael Levy of Stafford County General District Court on March 5 to face charges filed after crashing his new car with three passengers in Aquia Harbour on July 26, 2012.

He was charged with reckless driving, underage possession of alcohol, driving while intoxicated, driving after illegal consumption of alcohol and failure to comply with the court’s pretrial conditions, which are all misdemeanors. He was represented by attorney Jonathan David.

Ringler was speeding his new Toyota Scion up and down Aquia Drive with a 17-year-old male, a 16-year-old female and an 18-year-old female in the car on the night of July 25. The car crashed at the corner of Aquia Drive and Channel Cove at approximately 1 a.m., July 26. All four sustained injuries.

Ringler and the male passenger were partially trapped inside the vehicle and had to be freed by rescue crews. The females were ejected from the car and seriously injured. One of those female passengers, Oksana Bernuy, appeared in court as a witness but did not testify. Both female passengers reportedly suffered broken backs, according to Major David Decatur of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office. One reportedly had a finger partially severed. Alcohol appeared to be a factor in the crash.

Ringler, wearing a red hoodie and black pants, pleaded guilty to a reduced version of the original reckless driving charge, general reckless driving. He pled no contest to underage possession of alcohol. The commonwealth’s attorney agreed not to pursue the other charges related to the accident as part of the plea agreement. Judge Levy dismissed the charge of failing to comply with pretrial conditions, saying that matter has been rendered moot at this juncture.

On the general reckless driving conviction, the judge sentenced Ringler to 180 days in jail with 150 days suspended provided he not violate the terms of his probation for three years. Ringler also must pay a $500 fine, plus $30 in court costs.

Ringler was granted first offender status for the underage possession of alcohol charge. If he completes 50 hours of community service by Sept. 3, the charge will be dismissed. First offender status gives him this chance to have the charge dismissed after completion of community service instead of receiving a conviction. However, he has lost his driver’s license for six months on the charge.

Ringler will be on three years of unsupervised probation. If he gets in trouble during those three years, he faces serving the suspended jail sentence.

Ringler will begin serving 30 days in jail on March 11. He will turn 20 years old in jail later this month unless he is released early.

Statewide Tornado Drill is Tuesday


Submitted News 

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – It’s tornado season, and Gov. Bob McDonnell has proclaimed March 12 as Tornado Preparedness Day. Join Prince William County government in participating in the annual Tornado Preparedness Day Drill on March 12 at 9:45 a.m. to practice taking cover from tornadoes.

During the past two years, 62 tornadoes struck Virginia, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100. Everyone can be affected; therefore, it’s important that everyone participate in the tornado drill. Every home, business, organization, and school can hold a tornado drill. If you can’t participate at that time, then choose another time or date – the most important thing is to have a drill, so you will know what to do when a tornado approaches.

• Go immediately to a safe area – usually the lowest level of your home, office or school.

• Move to a windowless interior room, closet or hallway.

• Take a “drop, cover and hold” position. This means crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and covering your head with your hands.

To start the drill on March 12, the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning that will trigger a tone alert and broadcast message on NOAA Weather Radio. The message will be picked up by TV and radio broadcasters, simulating what listeners will hear during an actual tornado warning.

For detailed instructions on the statewide drill or to register for the drill, visit readyvirginia.gov.

Driver Killed in Tractor Trailer Crash from Stafford

[Submitted photo]

Update 5 p.m. Monday 

The driver who died in a tractor trailer crash at Quantico is from Stafford.

More in a press release from police:

Fatal Crash – On March 9th at 10:13AM, police responded to the area of Russell Rd and the Interstate 95 southbound ramp in Triangle (22172) for a single vehicle crash. The investigation revealed that the driver of a 2005 Kenworth T800 tractor trailer was exiting Interstate 95 at Russell Rd. The driver failed to negotiate the left turn onto Russell road due to speed which caused the vehicle to roll. The vehicle collided with the guardrail and the driver was subsequently pinned inside the vehicle. The driver died from injuries at the scene. Investigation continues.


Gerald Wayne NEWHOUSE, Jr., 43, of Stafford

11 a.m. 

QUANTICO, Va. – One person is dead after a tractor trailer overturned near Quantico.

The crash is located on Russell Road, near the back entrance of Quantico Marine Corps Base and exit 148 on Interstate 95.

Here’s a statement from police: 

*INCIDENT: Crash with reported fatality, Russell Rd and the I-95 interchange near Quantico. Single vehicle, tractor trailer, ran off the roadway and overturned. Driver died at the scene. Drivers can expect delays in the area as the investigation continues.

We’ll have more once we get it.

Picture 1 of 4

[Submitted photo]

Stewart Rallies Stafford’s Republican Base Ahead of Upcoming Convention

Ted and Anne Hupka talk with Virginia Lt. Governor Candidate Corey Stewart and Stafford County Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde. [Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – At a bar in Stafford, Corey Stewart talked about his successes in Prince William and about why he thinks he should be Virginia’s next Lt. Governor.

In a standing-room only crowd, Stewart addressed members of Stafford’s Republican base, elected officials, and patrons who all gathered at Micks Restaurant and Lounge. The once Prince William Occoquan District Supervisor and currently the county’s top elected leader, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, he talked about being fiscally responsible in running local government.

“During my time as Chairman, we’ve eliminated 320 government positions…we’ve had to do that to keep taxes flat,” said Stewart.

Elected officials like Virginia Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, Woodbridge, and from Stafford’s Board of County Supervisors were also there including Cord Sterling, Jack Cavalier, and Paul Milde who coordinated the campaign bash.

“It’s important to have other local government officials nearby and have their support,” said Stewart. “I’ve been elected to serve Prince William countywide…don’t you think that’s a good idea,” said Stewart, directing his comments to Milde who’s pushed for electing an At-large Chairman of Stafford County’s Board.

Stewart assured his base that he’s won over voters Prince William County twice during off-year elections, even thought the minority-majority county overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012. By canvassing both the eastern and western ends of Prince William — a county with 410,000 residents — and visiting various religious centers and predominately black churches has helped broaden his base, locally.

Stafford’s Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson is also running for Lt. Governor and was not at last night’s event.

“I have nothing but kind things to say about Susan Stimpson. I gained a lot of respect for her on the campaign trail but, frankly, I think I’m the person for the job,” said Stewart.

Paul Milde agreed.

“We need as many delegates as we can to head to the convention on May 18th and have some Stafford representation for the guy who deserves the job,” said Milde.

The field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination is a crowded one with seven total, including Woodbridge Delegate Scott Lingamfelter. Once it’s decided who the party’s nomination will be, voters will head to the polls to cast their votes Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Picture 1 of 6

Stafford Schools Opening 2 Hours Late Friday, No A.M. Preschool


STAFFORD, Va. – Out of concerns for possible black ice on roadways Friday morning, Stafford County Public Schools will open two hours late.

More in a press release from schools spokeswoman Valerie Cottongim:

Stafford County Schools will open two hours late on Friday, March 8, 2013. There is a concern regarding black ice on the roads in the morning and below freezing temperatures early.

This delay will allow our inclement weather team to evaluate road conditions and will provide daylight for our bus drivers, employees and students to better see the roadways.

There will be no a.m. preschool classes and no change to the p.m. preschool classes. Breakfast programs are canceled, lunch will be served, and dismissal will be at the regular times. Buses will pick up two hours after their regularly scheduled time.

Stafford picked up 7.1 inches of snow during Wednesday’s winter storm, the National Weather Service reported. Schools have been closed in the county for the past two days.


Stricter Oversight Sought after Teachers Go Without Pay Raises

North Stafford High School sits on Garrisonville Road in North Stafford (Photo: Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

For Potomac Local News

STAFFORD, Va. – There might be a bit of a kerfuffle brewing between the Stafford Board of County Supervisors and Stafford County School Board.

During a budget presentation Tuesday, County Administrator Anthony J. Romanello talked about tax rates, fund balances — or county savings — lower real estate taxes, rising revenues and contingency funds along with a number of other topics.

The supervisors split their questions along several lines early in Romanello’s presentation, but the single subject that got the most attention was the discrepancy between the money the school board wants in Fiscal 2014 and the amount of money the Board of Supervisors is ready to give up.

In a recent budget proposal, the school board asked the supervisors for an additional $18 million for Fiscal 2014.

Romanello’s proposed budget would give the school board $3.2 million more over last year, which he said would pay for a 2-percent pay raise for all Stafford County school employees.

Romanello explained that the county would allocate $1.1 million to the school board with the remainder of the $3.2 million coming from the state and other sources.

Last year the board of supervisors gave $133 million, or 53.85 percent, of its $247 million in revenue to the school board.

According to Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde, the supervisors understood that an extra $5.1 million the county board allocated to the school board in Fiscal 2013 would go toward school employee raises, but that didn’t happen.

In past years, the board of county supervisors has exercised its prerogative of using “categorical funding” to dictate how the school board spends its share of county revenues.

Hartwood District Supervisor Gary Snellings, who voted last year to suspend categorical funding, said he wouldn’t be voting that way again.

“That was one of the bigger mistakes I’ve made since I’ve been on this board,” Snellings said. “In FY ’11, we categorical funded schools and teachers got a raise. In FY ’12, we categorical funded schools and teachers got a raise.”

Snellings said he didn’t want to give money to the school board in the upcoming fiscal year without assurances that the money would go toward raises.

“I am not going to sit here and have these folks take this money and shift it everywhere else and then come back the following year and point the finger across the street at us,” he said.

Milde, who voted last year to retain categorical finding, echoed Snellings.

“You got rid of categorical funding last year which was a huge mistake,” Milde said. “I would suggest that we might start thinking about taking that one tool we have … to kind of insist that they spend money where we think they should.”

Garrisonville District Supervisor Ty Schieber said he understood the disappointment among the board members over the lack of pay raises last year, but urged his colleagues to withhold their judgment for the time being.

“If we want to budget by number as opposed to budget by requirement … give them an opportunity to talk about why and what they need” Schieber said. “Certainly there’s limitations in terms of resources, but before we pass judgment … we owe a full hearing of it to make sure we understand where they’re coming from.”

Schieber did however seem to balk a bit at $18 million.

“It’s a big number. I get it, but let’s hear them out first,” he said.

According to the county schools’ website, $3.7 million of the $18 million requested increase would go to pay raises. The budget shows that $1.7 million would include spending on school improvements, five additional teachers, three bus drivers and three bus monitors.

Other spending would include roughly $2 million for 43.5 new employees, $656,417 for summer school and $209,000 for fleet services.

For more detailed information on the proposed school budget, visit

stafford.schoolfusion.us. Find “Financial Services” on the left. Click to find “Budgets & Grants” and go “School Board Approved Budgets Summary.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Stephanie J. Johnson, chair of the school board, said it’s the school board’s responsibility to present a “needs-based” budget the county board.

“Under code … the job of the school board is to present a budget that expresses the needs of the division,” Johnson said. “This is not an attempt to vilify or blame the board of supervisors or embarrass them into giving us more money. We are following what our code requires with a needs-based budget.”

Johnson said school board members understand that money is limited.

“For so many years it has been a battle between what the schools need and what the county could afford. Those two things don’t always match up,” she said.

Categorical funding can also create “cash flow” problems since the school board has to go to the county board every time it wants to transfer money within the school division’s departments, according to Johnson.

“It removes that authority from the school board,” Johnson said. “As a school board member, I don’t like it, but they do have the authority to categorically fund. It is their choice.”

In Fiscal 2013 the school board was freed from categorical funding constraints and took advantage that freedom to use the $5.1 million to replace money taken from “one-time” funding source to pay for raises in 2012.

“In order to replenish that fund, we used the majority to replace the funds we removed from the one-time funding,” she said.

Johnson went on to say that school board members are probably better positioned to know how best to spend money within the school system.

“Sometimes the base knowledge is not there,” she said of county board members.

Johnson also said that the extra money the school board is requesting would also help attract and retain teachers and reduce class sizes.


Crime Watch: Mysterious Notes Baffle Police, Cop Shown WaWa Card as ID

122111 PWC police

From Police Reports 


Threatening note left at residence, lawn ornaments broken

The Manassas City Police Department is investigating the latest incident in a series of threatening notes left at the front doors of residences in the Weems neighborhood area. The most recent note was left at the front door of a residence on the 9500 block of Sumner Lake Boulevard sometime between 4:00PM Saturday, March 2, and 5:00PM Monday, March 4. The resident reported discovering several of her clay lawn ornaments broken and left in front of her front door, along with a note. The note was similar to ones left on the previously reported occasions. As in the previous incidents, this residence has no connection to the person named in the note. The investigation is ongoing.

Simple Assault

The Manassas City Police Department is investigating an incident in which a man was assaulted while fishing at Sumner Lake at approximately 10:00PM Monday, March 4. The man, who lives on the 8300 block of Tillett Loop in the Sumner Lake community, said he was approached by an unknown man who repeatedly said “no fishing!” and pushed and poked him in the chest repeatedly while he backed away from the lake. The resident said the man followed him back to Tillett Loop and took pictures of him, then fled toward Sumner Lake Boulevard. The victim described the suspect as an Asian male in his twenties, approximately 5`2” tall, 160 pounds, with black hair, wearing a blue sweater and black pants.

Larceny from Auto

The Manassas City Police Department is investigating the larceny of an iPad from a car on the 8500 block of Liberia Avenue. A resident reported that while his car was parked in front of his house between 6:00PM and 8:30PM Saturday, March 2, his iPad was taken from the front passenger seat. The car was left unlocked.

Larceny from back yard

The Manassas City Police Department is investigating the larceny of a washer/dryer combination unit from a back yard on the 9000 block of Portner Avenue. A resident reported that the item was stolen sometime between 8:00AM and 5:00PM Monday, March 4. The gate to the fenced backyard was left unlocked.

Prince William County 

Armed Robbery – On March 4th at 10:47PM, police responded to the area of Blooms Quarry Ln and Granite Ln in Manassas (20111) for a robbery. The victim, a 35 year old woman of Manassas, reported to police that she was walking home when she was approached by an unknown man. The man assaulted the victim and implied he had a weapon before taking her purse and fleeing the area. Minor injuries were reported. A police K-9 was utilized in the search. No suspect was located.


Male, unknown race, between 20 & 30 years of age, 5’10”, 175lbs, medium build

Last seen wearing a coat, blue jeans, and scarf

Residential Burglary | Grand Larceny Auto – On March 3rd at 10:56AM, a Prince William County Police motor officer attempted to stop a vehicle in the 4500 block of Forestburg Ln in Triangle (22172) for a traffic infraction. The vehicle did not stop and drove to a nearby residence where he then fled on foot. The suspect was not located. Officers went to the vehicle owner’s address in the 3300 block of Vineyard Pl in Dumfries (22026) where it was determined that a burglary had taken place and vehicle stolen. Homeowner reported to police that the burglary occurred between 7:00AM and 10:50AM. There were no signs of forced entry into the residence. The vehicle was the only property reported missing.


Indecent Exposure – On March 3rd at 8:25PM, police responded to the area of Greenwood Dr and Gustus Dr in Woodbridge (22193) for a suspicious person. Caller reported to police that an unknown man was walking down the street in the nude. Officers arrived in the area and located the man, identified as the accused. The accused was transported to an area hospital for evaluation. Following the evaluation, the accused was subsequently arrested.

Arrested on March 3rd:

Lapaul NEWELL, 57, of 2319 Columbia St in Richmond, VA

Charged with indecent exposure

Court date set for March 19, 2013, held WITHOUT bond

Stafford County 

Man charged with synthetic drug possession after officer said he was shown gift card for ID

The Stafford Sheriff’s office was called to a WaWa gas station on Eustace Road at 11 p.m. Saturday for a report of a man sitting in his parked car slumped over the steering wheel.

When a deputy tried to make contact with the person, the driver initially had no response. Eventually the driver awoke and spoke to the law enforcement officer, but appeared to have slurred speech and glassy eyes.

When asked for an ID, the driver handed the deputy a WaWa gift card. Afterward, the man found to have spice, a synthetic drug illegal in Virginia, was arrested.

Jonnathan Rowan, 24, is charged with possession of a synthetic cannabinoid and with drunk in public, according to Stafford County authorities.

Closings, Cancellations & Delays for Thursday, March 7, 2013


Prince William County

– Prince William County Public Schools will be closed due to inclement weather in certain areas. Code Red for employees. 

– County government employees on unscheduled leave

Stafford County

– Stafford County Public Schools closed. Code 2 for employees

– Government offices open on time


– Manassas Public Schools closed. Code blue for employees

Manassas Park

– Manassas Park Public Schools closed. Code red for employees

Colleges and universities

– George Mason University open on time.

– Northern Virginia Community College open on time


– Virginia Railway Express: Regular schedule, be mindful of possible ice on train platforms

Military installations 

– Quantico: Opening on time, code green

– Fort Belvoir: Opening on time, code green

Federal government

– Offices open on time 


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 

Closing & Cancellations for Wednesday, March 6, 2013


View Our Continuing Storm Coverage 

The first significant snowstorm of this winter season is forecast to bring at least four to six inches of snow portions of Prince William and Stafford counties, and the Greater Manassas areas. 

With the snow comes closing and cancellations. We’ve laid them out by county, colleges and universities, and the federal government. If your organization has a closing or cancellation you want our readers to know about, email us with along with your contact information.

Prince William County

– Prince William County Public Schools will be closed due to inclement weather in certain areas. Code Red for employees. All school division activities including Science Grades 2 and 3 Professional Development are cancelled. The School Age Care Program will not open.

– Prince William County Government offices closed 

– Grassroots Networking group meeting canceled 

– Chick-fil-A Woodbridge closed 

– Prince William County / Manassas Boys and Girls Clubs closed 

– National Museum of the Marine Corps closed 

– IKEA Furniture store at Potomac Mills mall closed 

Stafford County

– Stafford County Public Schools closed, code

– Stafford County Government offices closed 

– Stafford County courts closed 

– Woodlands Pool not closed

– Community Recreation and Senior programs have been canceled for today

– Stafford County Courthouse Community center closed

– Virginia Railway Express fare public hearing canceled 


– Manassas City Public Schools are closed today due to inclement weather. Code Blue for employes. The SACS Minnieland program is closed today.

– Manassas City Government on liberal leave 

– Prince William County / Manassas Boys and Girls Clubs closed 

Manassas Park

– City offices open: City office employees may delay their arrival or take advantage of liberal leave for the day. If there are any changes, they will be posted on this website.

– Manassas Park Public Schools closed, code red.

– Manassas Park Community Center closed today. All programs canceled. Extended care will not open.

Colleges and universities

– George Mason University : A decision regarding the university’s operating schedule on Wednesday, March 6th will be announced no later than 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning via Mason Alert, gmu.edu, and University Switchboard at (703) 993-1000.

– Northern Virginia Community College – College Closed, NOVA day and evening classes and activities are canceled Wed., March 6, due to inclement weather. All campuses and administrative offices are closed.

– University of Mary Washington Stafford, Fredericksburg campuses closed, Dahlgren Campus OPEN

Military installations 

– Quanitico Marine Corps Base closed, code red.

– Ft. Belvoir closed — employees must follow telework policy

Federal government

–Offices closed, employees must follow telework policies — OPM website


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 

Winter Storm Warning Canceled, Snow Totals Varied

•	Snow removal crews were hard at work this morning at the Brafferton Shopping Center along Va. 610 in North Stafford. [Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

View Closings and Cancellations

Update 4:15 p.m. 

The winter storm warning is canceled for the area and worst of the storm has passed. But now transportation officials warn of freezing roadways.

More in a statement from VDOT:

As slushy, wet roads could become icy overnight and through tomorrow morning, northern Virginia crews will continue treating roads through the morning rush, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Our biggest concern tonight is freezing and motorists need to use plenty of caution if out on the roads. Tomorrow morning commuters should monitor forecasts and check road conditions before heading out,” said Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s maintenance engineer for northern Virginia. “Once rush hour has ended we will begin to demobilize.”

Throughout the day snow turned to rain and then back to snow. The setup for the storm placed our region on the ever-important freezing line, which helped to cut back on forecast snow totals.

But for our area, this is the largest snowfall seen all winter. Here’s a look at more snow totals from the National Weather Service:

Prince William County – 6 inches

Stafford County – 7.1 inches

Fauquier County – 12.4 inches

Fairfax County – 6 inches

Dulles Airport – 3 inches

Regan Washington National Airport – 0.2 inches

Picture 1 of 6

[Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Update 2 p.m. 

Prince William officials report problems are two roadways in the county:

Healthcote Boulevard

Heathcote shut down between Old Carolina Rd  and James Madison due to downed powerlines.  Novec notified/enroute at 13:07

Aden Road at Colvin Lane

Aden blocked between Fitzwater and Marstellar for tree / live wires down.  Va power notified at 12:25

Update 1 p.m.

Latest snow totals, according to the National Weather Service

Augusta County (near Charlottesville) 20 inches

Fairfax County

Clifton 4.5 inches

Herndon 4 inches

Prince William County

Gainesville 4.8 inches

Dumfries 2.8 inches

Independent Hill 5.8 inches

Stafford County 5 inches

Spotsylvania County 7 inches

11:45 a.m. 

Stafford County officials declared a state of emergency due to the snow storm. The declaration will help make it easier for officials to obtain federal assistance if it’s offered after the storm.

More in a press release:

• Citizens can dial 311 or (540) 658-HELP (4357) for non-emergency questions. If anyone has a life-threatening emergency, they need to call 911 immediately.

• Generator Safety – If residents lose power and are using generators, they should be extremely cautious and not use the generator inside their home or garage because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. They should also use flashlights rather than candles because of the risk of fires.

• Downed Power Lines – Stay away from downed power lines. Call 911 to report downed power lines. Do not touch them.

• Power Outages – If you lose power, do not open freezers and refrigerators unless necessary to preserve the cold air.

• Disaster Supplies Kit – Assemble a disaster supplies kit with the following items: water, non-perishable food, can opener, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle to signal for help, most towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, local maps, cell phone with chargers. Also pack prescription medication.

• Medication and/or Special Needs – Individuals with prescription medication and/or special needs should make provisions for medications that require refrigeration in case they lose power. They should also keep specialized items ready including wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, food for service animals and any other items they might need.

• Fallen Trees – Call VDOT at 1-800-367-ROAD (1-800-367-7623).


Update 10 a.m.

Snow has dramatically increased acorss the area from Stafford to Prince William County. Fatter flakes are falling faster and more frequently than they were about 8:30 a.m.

Traffic across the area is light as many drivers apparently headed warnings to stay off roads. Plow trains are working to keep highways and main arteries clear from snow.

Police and rescue crews are on the scene of a crash on I-95 south just before the exit for Va. 610 in Garrisonville, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy. The crash involves a tractor trailer, but no lanes are reported closed.

In Prince William County, police said they will no respond to single vehicle crashes with property damage only.

See their statement below:

The police department has suspended the accident policy throughout the county. This means officers will NOT be responding to minor property damage crashes. Drivers are asked to move their vehicles from the roadway to exchange information.

Officers will continue to respond to all crashes resulting in injury. We want to encourage everyone to remain off the roadway unless necessary. If the power goes out to traffic lights at intersections, drivers MUST treat the intersection as a four way stop.

If traffic lights are flashing, proceed with caution as drivers with the flashing yellow have the right of way.

Police said, on a normal day, it’s their policy to respond to all crashes regardless of injury.

Checking in with the National Weather Service – they’ve increased snowfall estimates for Prince William and Stafford counties and now said our area could pick up 10 to 14 inches of snow. Here’s a look at the latest actual snowfall totals posted by the weather service:


BLUEMONT (Loudoun County) 8.0 7:49 AM


CHANCELLORSVILE (Spotsylvania County) 5.8 8:00 AM

Reported power outages


Prince William County 706

Stafford County 7

Fauquier County 490

–Dominion Virginia Power

Prince William County 290

Stafford County 369


Update 8 a.m.

Don’t be surprised to see police officers in PrinceWilliamCounty driving different vehicles today due to the storm.

More in a statement from police:

Due to the expected inclement weather, some Prince William County police officers will be utilizing county public works vehicles. These vehicles have been outfitted with temporary police decals and a mini red & blue light bar. These vehicles should be treated as emergency vehicles – slow down and move over if you encounter these vehicles or other emergency vehicles on the roadway.

On the roads, VDOT announced all work on the I-95 Express Lanes Project has been canceled today. 

[Photo: Susan Billings / Dumfries, Va.]

[Photo: Susan Billings / Dumfries, Va.]

Update 7 a.m.

Snow is falling in and around the Stafford and Frederickburg areas right now. VDOT reports mostly we conditions farther south and east along the Northern Neck Peninsula.

Update 6 a.m.

Snow continues to fall outside and streets are becoming covered with the white stuff. There are several closings and cancellations for the region as this late season snowstorm continues to impact the area, and conditions continue to get worse.

Here’s an update from Potomac Local News reader Susan Billings posted to our Facebook page:

3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning; the storm is really loading down the tree limbs. The power companies should spend money on regular tree maintenance instead of doing a few just before a storm and hiring all kinds of linemen help from out of state when the tree limbs take down the wires.

Growing up, we didn’t have constant power outages due to storms because any given day we would see power company crews on the various roadsides, trimming tree limbs away from the lines.

[Photo from Lake Ridge, Va. -- March 6, 2013]

[Photo from Lake Ridge, Va. — March 6, 2013]



[Photo from Lake Ridge, Va. — March 6, 2013]


Forecast snow totals 11 p.m. Tuesday. [National Weather Service]

Forecast snow totals 11 p.m. Tuesday. [National Weather Service]

11:30 p.m.

Forecasted Snow Totals Rise 

Projected snow totals have increased for the area, as the National Weather Service has gone “all in” with a forecast of eight to 10 inches of snow for Prince William and Stafford counties.

It’s been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride today as forecasted totals early this morning showed anywhere between six to eight inches of snowfall for the area. This afternoon, forecasters lowered expectations for snow totals, but raised them once more about 11 p.m.

Areas to the west of Washington, especially in Loudoun County and out toward the Blue Ridge Mountains, have been expecting at least a foot of snow to fall all day long.

And with the snow comes transportation crews who will be out clearing the roadways before the storm.

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

By 4 a.m. Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will deploy more than 4,000 salt trucks and plows throughout northern Virginia in preparation for up to a foot of wet, heavy snow. Emergency tree contractors are on standby as strong winds could bring down trees and power lines. 

“We are urging commuters to stay off the road on Wednesday and let our crews clear the roads,” said VDOT maintenance engineer Branco Vlacich. “Roads likely will be treacherous at times.”

Major routes are treated with chemicals and plowed once two inches have fallen.  In subdivisions and other low volume roads hills and other trouble spots are treated with sand and plowed when two inches have accumulated.

 In northern Virginia, VDOT has one snow removal program for high volume roads such has Interstates 66, 95, 395, 495, Routes 1, 7, 15, 28, 50, Fairfax County Parkway, Prince William Parkway, etc.), and another snow removal program for subdivisions (main thoroughfares in neighborhoods, residential streets and cul de sacs).  Therefore, crews will be working on high volume roads and in subdivisions concurrently. Within each of these programs, roads with the highest traffic volumes are cleared first.

VDOT is responsible for 17,679 lane miles in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties (Arlington County maintains its own secondary roads). 

VDOT reminds motorists to use caution when driving during wintry weather. Drivers should:

·         Check current weather, road conditions and traffic before traveling at www.511Virginia.org or by calling 511

·         Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination

·         Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges

·         Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road

In VDOT’s Fredericksburg District, which includes Stafford County, it’s more of the same:

Crews will begin 24-hour emergency operations at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Fredericksburg area. VDOT has 462 pieces of state and hired equipment ready to deploy in the region, including 50 trucks dedicated to clearing and treating Interstate 95 and the interstate ramps, bridges and overpasses. Salt, sand and chemical supplies are fully stocked.

Still in the forecast for this storm are high winds and power outages, and crews with the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative say they have crews on standby, and they’ve provided customers on what to do if the power goes out:

Prepare for outages

Shaffer urges customers to make sure NOVEC has their current phone numbers. The Co-op’s system can now accommodate two phone numbers. The correct numbers will expedite outage reporting and power restoration. Customers who use cellphones and have not registered their numbers should call 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500 to associate their numbers with their accounts.

Charge cellphones. Cordless phones don’t work when power is out.

Develop a plan for elderly or disabled family members.

Have an emergency kit with non-perishable food, water, flashlights with fresh batteries, battery-operated radio, lanterns, canned fuel, matches, and first aid. If applicable, have enough prescription drugs, pet food, and baby-care items.

Stock up on firewood for a wood-burning fireplace or stove. Cover wood with a tarp or stack some in a carport or garage to keep it from being buried by snow. 

Before a storm hits, unplug TVs, DVD/ VCR players, microwave oven, and computers to protect them from power surges that can occur from trees and limbs contacting power lines.

What to do if power goes out

“If a customer loses power, he or she should call NOVEC to report it,” instructs Shaffer. “Customer service representatives may answer the phone, but our automated interactive voice response system works even faster because it sends a message to us immediately that an outage has occurred. The automated system will also provide updates.”

Customers with access to the Internet can report outages at www.novec.com on computers andwww.novec.com/mobile on smartphones. They can also use NOVEC’s smartphone application available athttp://www.novec.com/contact_us/apps.cfm.

“Customers can follow what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter,” Shaffer notes, “but they must not report outages via social media because those sites aren’t connected to our reporting system. Call us or go online instead.”

Open freezers and refrigerators only when necessary.

Open exterior doors only when necessary.

Run portable generators, camp stoves, or grills only outdoors to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning. Alternatively, heat food in a chafing dish or fondue pot over canned fuel.

3:30 p.m. 

Update: More Rain Expected to Mix with Snow at Onset of Storm

[National Weather Service]

[National Weather Service]

Most of the Washington, D.C. region, including Prince William and Stafford counties, is now under a winter storm warning starting at midnight through 3 a.m .Thursday. That’s an upgrade from the previous winter storm watch that is no longer in effect – but there has been some forecast changes in the storm.

National Weather Service forecasters now state the storm will bring in more rain on the onset, meaning you’ll wake up to find the area pretty wet but not a lot of snow on the group by sunrise. It’s during the day Wednesday that the bulk of the snow will fall, forecasters said.

This latest development has also shifted the larger projected accumulation totals further west of Interstate 95. Where this morning maps from the weather service showed placed like Woodbridge being in the 8 to 10 inches zone, those totals have been reduced to between four to eight inches due to rain that expected to mix in with snow during the day.

Those who in the Blue Ridge Mountains may still pick up nearly two feet of snow from this storm.

Temperatures for the storm are expected to hover in the 30s, and high winds with gusts up to 35 mph will make travel treacherous across the region, the weather service states.

The storm is expected to clear the area on Thursday.

7 a.m. 

Winter Storm Watch Goes Into Effect for Pr. William, Stafford

For snow lovers who have been disappointed over the past few years with the lack of snow, the storm coming over the next 48 hours looks like it’s going to the big one.

According to the National Weather Service, eight to 10 inches of snow could fall west of Interstate 95. From Manassas, Gainesville, and points west: 10 or more inches of snow are possible.

Winter storm watches are posted for both Prince William and Stafford counties, and winter storm warnings are posted for Fauquier, Loudoun, and Culpeper counties where snow totals are expected to be higher.

This monster winter storm has winter weather hazard warnings stretching back in to state like Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, and Indiana.

The timing of the storm will bring it into our area tonight with a mix of rain and snow that should begin falling about 10 p.m. By 2 a.m., it’ll changeover to all snow with two to four inches possible, according to the weather service.

More snow will fall Wednesday, adding another three to five inches on top of what began falling Tuesday night, the weather service predicts.

There’s also a chance for snow on Thursday and accumulations of about a tenth of an inch.

So far, we’ve not heard of any closings are cancelations due to the impending storm. We’ll list them here if and when we do hear about them.

With a lack of snow and overall cold temperatures last winter, this could be the largest snowstorm to impact our area since the Blizzard of 2010.


Investigators Uncover 16 Pounds of Pot


NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Stafford law enforcement just came into possession of several pounds of pot.

A sheriff’s deputy obtained information about a drug deal that was set to happen in the parking lot of North Stafford High School on Sunday evening. The deputy then went to the school and found the car matching the description of the one suspected in being involved in the drug deal, and the occupants inside were subsequently questioned and arrested, said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy.

Investigators said they searched the driver of the car and found a baggie with pot inside his pocket. After searching the car they found another bag of pot in a backpack, and in all it amounted to about a pound and a half of marijuana.

But investigators were not done searching. They went to the home of the driver and found about 15 pounds of pot stuffed in baggies stuff into a closet, said Kennedy. In all, 16 pounds of pot were found in the search, investigators said.

Noa Sestinal Cabrera, of Everglades Lane in Stafford, is said to be the driver of the car and is charged with possession with the intent to distribute, possession of a firearm, and with distributing drugs on school property.

The passenger of the car, Oreste Vargas, is charged with distribution, and with conspiracy, said Kennedy.

Driver in Aquia Crash to go to Trial Tuesday

Fire and rescue crews were called to the scene of a car crash in Aquia Harbour. [File photo: KJ Mushung]


STAFFORD, Va. – Daniel Ringler, 19, the driver of the Toyota Scion that crashed last July while carrying three teenagers, is due to go to trial Tuesday, March 5 in Stafford County General District Court. He is charged with reckless driving, underage possession of alcohol, driving while intoxicated with a minor in the car and driving after illegal consumption of alcohol, which are all misdemeanors.

On Feb. 6, Ringler was also charged with failing to comply with the court’s pretrial conditions.

Ringler was living in Aquia Harbour at the time of the accident. However, that house on Blackbeard Drive has appeared to be unoccupied for months now.

Ringler attended Brooke Point High School in Stafford. His Facebook page says he works at Jiffy Lube.

Two females, ages 16 and 18, were ejected from the car at the time of the crash and seriously injured. A 17-year-old male passenger was also injured after he became trapped inside vehicle. Ringler sustained injuries as well and appeared at his arraignment last autumn with his arm in a sling.

Details about accident can be found here

‘Rogue Drivers’ Prompt Stafford Cab Companies to Ask for Government Regulation

[Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

STAFFORD, Va. – At least two cab companies in Stafford want to be regulated by the county government.

Owners of Global Cab and Airport Taxi told elected officials on the Stafford Board of County Supervisors they run reputable operations with drivers who work as independent contractors. But they say with no rules governing prices or how fares are metered, there are so-called rogue drivers who can quickly set up shop, pick up passengers, and charge unexpected high fares.

“I cannot run a biz in this kind business when anyone can come in…and then open a taxi business,” said Airport Taxi owner Bashir Malik.

He added that some of the drivers he has hired have split off to start their own companies, and they charge whatever they fare they deem fit. Owners said it all comes without any rules set forth by the county to govern fares – rules that are in place in area jurisdictions like Fredericksburg, Fairfax, and Alexandria.

“The owners and operators of cab companies in Stafford came and asked to be regulated, which I find a bit odd because most companies don’t want to be regulated by the government,” said Stafford County Griffis-Widewater Supervisor Jack Cavalier.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to ask county staff, as well as committees on public safety and roads, to review any policies in place that regulate cabs in the county, as well as come up with any new polices that could crack down on drivers who charge too much.

“We need to look at some sort of regulation that prevents passengers from being picked up late at night and being charged $50 for what normally would have been a $10 fare,” said Cavalier.

Global Cab owner Doug Overvolt said he wants to see the county’s sheriff’s office stop cabs that might be operating without a proper permit. Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson said Sheriff Charles E. Jett should be brought into the conversation on whether or not to regulate taxi cabs in the county.

Rockhill Supervisor Cord Sterling said he is hesitant to put more government regulation in place.

“I ride in taxis quite a bit, but I don’t know the first thing about regulating them. My experience with regulation is the government telling [cab owners] what prices to charge, and I tend to lean toward the free market,” said Sterling.

As the county grows, Cavalier said he’s convinced some sort of regulation will be needed to govern fares, as ridership to and from places like restaurants, shopping centers, bars, and to airports like Regan Washington National and Dulles is on the upswing.

Wednesday Snow Threat Intensifies

Road conditions deteriorated fast was snow fell fast on Jan. 26, 2011, on  Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) in North Stafford. [File Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]

Winter Storm Watch Goes Into Effect Tuesday Night

It seems more and more likely our area will see some wintry precipitation on Wednesday in a late season storm. But will it be something wicked this way comes?

A winter storm moving across the northern portion of the U.S. right now, bringing with it four to eight inches of snow to portions of Iowa, Illinois, and North Dakota, will move eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. Once there, the storm is expected to develop into a coastal storm and, according to forecasters, has it’s eye on the Washington area.

Locally, a winter storm watch goes into effect Tuesday night and will last thorough Wednesday. The National Weather Service forecast states five or more inches of snow are expected fall in our area Wednesday, and in some nearby places even more could fall.

The storm should begin as rain for many on Tuesday night, and then changeover to all snow and continue throughout the day Wednesday, according to the weather service.

Temperatures will hover in the mid 30s throughout the day Wednesday. And power outages could be rampant as heavy and wet snow coupled with high winds could bring down electric lines.

Many snow lovers in the region, while excited about a prospect of a storm, remain weary after several other snow chances this winter have come and gone. Many have taken to Facebook and other social media and posted phrases like “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

The region hasn’t been heavily impacted by snow since a storm hit on Jan. 26, 2011 and brought several inches of the white stuff to the area, as well as snarling the evening rush hour commute. Before that, two major storms buried the region in snow – one in December 2009 and another in February 2010. These monster storms became known as the “Snowpocalypse” on social media.

One of the most surprising late-season storms came in March 1999 and brought eight inches of snow to Regan Washington National Airport, according to Capital Weather Gang. It was the largest March snowstorm in the region since the 1940s.

Blaze Takes Mobile Home in Stafford

[Photo: Stafford County Fire and Rescue]

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – A fire broke out overnight at a home in a trailer park near the Augstine Golf Club in Stafford County.

Fire and rescue crews were called to a home at 2 Cabell Lane, off Ramoth Church Road at 1:30 a.m., where they found heavy smoke showing from the side of a mobile home, stated fire and rescue Asst. Chief Mark Doyle.

Crews battled the blaze inside the home and brought it under control within five minutes, said Doyle.

A search of the home revealed no one was inside when the fire broke out. One person does live in the home and has been displaced.

No one was injured and the fire remains under investigation.

General Assembly Blocks I-95 Tolls

Commuters use the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on I-95 in Woodbridge. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – There will be no tolling on the southern end of Interstate 95 without the General Assembly’s say-so, thanks to approval of the transportation funding bill during the recently concluded legislative session.

A plan to toll the stretch of I-95 in Sussex County, which was part of a larger federal pilot program, will be blocked by language added to the transportation bill: “No tolls shall be imposed or collected on Interstate 95 south of Fredericksburg pursuant to the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program without the prior approval of the General Assembly.”

The ISRRPP was created to test tolling as a possible way to “fund needed reconstruction or rehabilitation on Interstate highway corridors that could not otherwise be adequately maintained or functionally improved without the collection of tolls,” according to the Federal Highway Administration’s website.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reserved one of three slots for the pilot program, and plans were under way to establish a tolling facility to test the idea. Involvement in the ISRRPP will now require approval from the General Assembly, effectively halting such plans.

“Although I wasn’t pleased with the overall transportation plan, the elimination of tolls was one of the few bright spots in the bill,” said Delegate Chris Peace, R-Mechanicsville.

“I’m pleased that we were able to send a clear message that imposing tolls on I-95 in Sussex County was a bad idea, and more importantly, that the Virginia General Assembly will now serve as a barrier to tolls on this important transportation corridor.”

Peace sponsored a bill to require approval by the General Assembly prior to any tolling on any part of an interstate highway in operation before July 2013. His proposal died in committee, but the transportation bill is a partial win.

“While it is not a ban on tolling, it is a clear indication that the General Assembly does not support tolling I-95,” said Dale Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Trucking Association.

The association is part of Toll Free 95 in Virginia, an organization opposing all tolls on the interstate. Twenty-three localities, 13 business associations, five economic and planning organizations and other groups have signed Toll Free’s online petition against tolling on I-95. More than 7,000 individuals also have signed the petition.

“From the beginning, residents of Southside Virginia knew the devastating impact that tolls on I-95 would have on public safety and our business environment,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt. “A tolling facility in Sussex would unfairly single out the hardworking people of Southside Virginia, and we are glad that it will not come to fruition.

“Collectively, we can claim victory.”

The restrictions on tolling are contained in House Bill 2313, which cleared the Senate on Feb. 23, the final day of the legislative session. The bill, which is awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature, raises sales taxes and overhauls fuels taxes to raise money for road and transit projects.

Deer Population a Challenge for Area Forests


Prince William Conservation Alliance

Many residents in Northern Virginia understand the need to change land use practices to stop or minimize habitat destruction and preserve good examples of our native plant communities. An increasing number of people also support combating the spread of non-native invasive species to include problem plant species and insects such as gypsy moth, which can strip tree foliage and cause their death.

These two conservation priorities remain tremendously important, but there is a critical need to add another: controlling populations of white-tailed deer.

People arrived in North America over 13,000 years ago. Once our species arrived, we, not wolves and mountain lions, gradually became the top predator controlling populations of large herbivores. Many of those species eventually went extinct. The white-tailed deer nearly joined their ranks by about 1900, with very few deer left in the state.

In the mid-20th century, Virginia joined many other states in reintroducing white-tailed deer to supplement the few deer left and increase numbers for sport hunting. From the 1950s through the 1980s two things happened that greatly contributed to the increase in the number of deer. First land use shifted away from agriculture toward suburban and urban uses.

Contrary to commonly held beliefs, suburban landscapes do not take away deer habitat – they create it. Deer are adaptive animals. Suburban development creates preferred edge habitat for deer, and human landscapes provide high concentrations of edible plants close to the ground where the deer can get to them. You can grow more deer in suburbia than you can in a purely forested landscape.

The second major factor is that few people hunt. Deer are a prey species that requires predation to control their populations. Without predation they can double their numbers in as little as one year. With almost no hunting pressure in suburban areas and declining hunting pressure in rural areas, deer numbers have skyrocketed state-wide. In many areas of the state, deer population numbers are at more than three to eight times the densities that native plant communities can sustain.

The result is that our remaining forest ecosystems are decimated. Deer eat everything native with few exceptions. They eat almost all of the non-woody plants in the forest as well as all shrubs and trees within their reach and the majority of the acorns and hickory nuts. They have now removed most vegetation from many of our forests below 5 feet.

The results include the disappearance of most of our forest bird species in many areas due to loss of the understory, the loss of many of our woodland wildflowers, and a change of our forest stand composition to a few species such as tulip tree, American beech and red maple that have smaller seeds and appear to be less palatable to deer.

As our forests are oversimplified we lose native species, non-native invasive plants explode and become the dominant understory. Once the existing trees die, there will be little to replace them.

In 2008 the USDA Forest Service began to make dire predictions about eastern forests due to the over-browsing by white-tailed deer. The problem is so severe that even if we could reduce the number of deer immediately to within ecologically sustainable levels, it would take many decades if not centuries to recover our native plant communities.

If we act soon we can retain enough native plant stock and seed that many species could recover within remaining forests and repopulate surrounding areas over time.

It is time for residents and local governments in Northern Virginia to join with USDA Forest Service, the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, large landowners and managers elsewhere in Virginia, the Maryland Native Plant Society and others in supporting and urging efforts to reduce and manage the number of white-tailed deer in order to protect our native plant species, the communities in which they live and the animal species they support.

Charles Smith is a member of the Prince William Wildflower Society and Prince William Conservation Alliance, and the Natural Resource Management and Protection Branch Manager for Fairfax County Park Authority.

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