Tim Jon here for the Blue Ridge Leader. Let’s get to it.
“What a dump (-ing)!”
Well, if the fact that it snowed yesterday comes as news to you, it’s probably too late to give you the details, but: personal observances can attest to anywhere from six to eight inches of very powdery covering out there. I experienced skating-rink conditions in west-central Loudoun- on Silcott Springs Road, Saint Louis Road and Snickersville Turnpike (almost didn’t make the hill west of Philomont), navigable but deepening snows on Otley and Black Oak and nearly impassable conditions on Paxson Road.
Which reminds me, I need to thank the kind gentleman at 35960 Paxson who helped me out of the snow-filled, muddy ditch and back onto the slippery roadway surface late in the afternoon.
Driving possibilities were slightly better in more residential neighborhoods, where at least some (but not all) plowing was performed.
The Route Seven Bypass was pretty much down to one lane by supper time.
We did note the presence of snowplows and sand trucks on major roadways throughout the day on our jaunt through rural Loudoun County.
Interestingly enough, in about 70 miles of driving, I can’t recall any vehicles in the ditch (except, briefly, yours truly); perhaps I was the only inept motorist on the road.
By all accounts, then, this makes for a relatively heavy winter for the Northern Virginia area- coupled with the snowfall back in late December.
Hope this is the swan song for the white stuff, though.
Fun is fun till overdone. Just too cold for this much snow.
Aftermath of Horror
Certainly no lack of heat currently focused on a woman from who admitted to killing her mother in Leesburg. Kim Dong heard a guilty verdict (first degree) in her murder trial late this past week; the jury recommended 35 years for the crime, which occurred in July of 2008.
Dong’s daughter Julie admitted to partnering in the slaying; the two were ostensibly motivated by money; they stole the elderly victim’s car, cash and credit card and fled to New Mexico before authorities tracked them down with the aid of transaction records.
The victim- 66 year old Hahn Hoang- lived on Golden Larch Terrace.
One can hardly help wondering: how a family can become so dysfunctional so that two members take another’s life- supposedly over financial issues.
We hope the surviving relatives can recover from a truly senseless tragedy.
Julie Dong comes in for sentencing later this month, after pleading guilty to first degree murder in August.
Brand New Choo Choo
Well, the train finally made it to Dulles Airport, in a manner of speaking. The facility unveiled their new subway this past week, set to serve most passengers arriving or departing from the regional hub.
The Airports Authority calls their new showpiece the AeroTrain; it runs on electricity with almost 30 rail cars (on rubber wheels) and tops out at a little more than 40 miles an hour.
It cost a cool billion and a half dollars (and you can bet that passengers’ll be footing that bill for quite some time, since the Airlines get tagged to help pay for improvements).
Speaking of which, recent years saw Dulles add a fourth runway, parking garages, control tower, new gates and expansions to the terminal and concourses.
The airport looks to get linked up to that other train- the metro extension from Falls Church- in about six years.
But that’s another story.
Oh, and those mobile lounges?
They’re gonna hang around for awhile; the Airports Authority plans to keep using them to shuttle international passengers as well as those accessing the D gates.
I keep hoping that someday they can reserve those for use in demolition derbies.
Power Play Chess Match
I can’t help but wonder: “What aren’t they telling us?” This- in response to the State Corporation Commission granting the applicants on the Path highwire project to pull their plans- for now.
This allows the two companies- Allegheny and American Electric Power- to circle the wagons and refile after gathering more information on future energy need projections.
The proposed design planned to string high voltage electrical lines across about 10 miles of northern Loudoun- as well as stretches in West Virginia and Maryland.
The SCC did rule that any future incarnations of the PATH project- Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highwire- include better data on pricing and supply ‘n demand.
So, maybe their opponents did catch ’em with their pants down and the region can get along without this extension- and without worrying about adequate electrical supply.
Or, just maybe- there’s something they’re not telling us.
Well, the more we hear about the County Budget, the less we like. Now we hear that the Supervisors are sending a letter to Richmond to plead for consideration of implementing the composite index, which would give counties like Loudoun a fairer shake (by most local prognosticators) in the Commonwealth’s tax formula.
Trouble is, when’s the last time ‘Richmond’ (i.e., the majority of the General Assembly) raised a finger to help poor little old Northern Virginia?
Number-crunchers in Loudoun fear that we could lose out on about $35 million from this state of inertia and most of the pain would be felt by the school system- since education takes up about two-third’s of the local budget pie.
Not a good situation, according to pretty much anyone you talk to in the County.
Who’s gonna lose out?
Kids, taxpayers, politicians- and any resident who uses one of the programs that’ll get cut due to lack of funding.
Well, the State’s got problems of their own.
In contrast to a local shortfall of a couple hundred million, Virginia is facing a four billion dollar deficit.
This may reflect on their support to localities in the car tax reimbursement deal (who remembers Jim Gilmore? He laughed all the way to the Governor’s Mansion on that one.).
Big Reach from Big Hearts
It’s really heartening to see all the local support for relief to earthquake-devastated Haiti. Looks like just about everybody got involved: rescuers, schools, organizations, individuals, you name ’em, they started to pitch in.
We should let you know about a schedule change due to yesterday’s snow: the Maddy Curtis Concerts at Franklin Park are now set for this evening at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.
They had to cancel the Saturday show on account of the weather; probably a good idea.
Anyway, Maddy’s a Junior at Loudoun Valley High School and lives in Bluemont.
She plans to sing a variety of American Classics of Gershwin, Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael- and some English bloke named Sting.
Maddy recently made a name for herself on American Idol and these Haiti Benefits indicate that she deserves every break she can get.
But this young lady’s just one of many in Loudoun who’ve pledged or collected or sent relief to the struggling survivors on that shaken island.
The Lions Clubs already raised over a half million dollars.
Local public schools helping out in the cause include Heritage and Freedom High Schools, Monroe Technology Center, Mercer, Stone Hill and Blue Ridge Middle Schools- and Liberty and Frances Hazel Reid Elementary Schools.
Extra credit on their report cards, we say.
Gang Violence: an abrupt halt
The suspect in a horrific murder and beating from last year puts himself in for even more punishment; 18-year-old Jaime Ayala pled guilty to an assault charge in a gang fight one year ago at the Cascades Community Center. He faces much stiffer penalties in the beating death of William Bennett in Lansdowne last March; the victim’s surviving widow, Cynthia, still faces a long recovery process from wounds in that crime.
Investigators linked Ayala to both incidents through sightings of a white van by witnesses at each location.
The suspect also faces charges in a home invasion robbery from last year.
Expect to hear more on the murder case as prosecutors need to refile the documents, due to a question about Ayala’s exact age at the time of his arrest; he was reportedly 17 when those crimes took place.
Two other men- both in custody- face charges in the beating death as well.
Now That’s Orbital!
We can’t help but mention a recent visit to one of our local schools by a former Astronaut. Frank Culbertson Junior spoke to students recently at Catoctin Elementary in Leesburg.
He served on three Shuttle Missions and logged almost 150 days in space.
Culbertson watched the events of September 11th from the International Space Station- the only American above the surface of the Earth on that day.
The former Navy Fighter Pilot (retired Captain) advised local students to study hard and make plans for their futures.
He also advised them to expect- and be able to adapt to- changes in their lives.
Frank Culbertson Junior currently serves as Senior Vice President for Orbital Sciences of Dulles.
More about them in a later story.
Side note: I interviewed the last man to walk on the Moon a few years back; Gene Cernan said he wouldn’t have believed at the time that 50 years would pass and his footsteps would remain as the last reminder of man on that little sphere out there.
By the time Apollo 17 rolled around in 1972, most of us opted for the Beverly Hillbillies or some such idiocy in favor of watching Astronauts on the Moon.
Funny how times change.
And if this stuff interests you, we highly recommend a visit to the nearby Dulles Smithsonian- the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center- it’s worth the hefty parking fee.
Leaves a Good Taste
One more for dessert: a recent dinner benefit at Patowmack Farms raised about $9,000 for a local food shelf- Interfaith Relief. They hosted a homegrown, home-cooked (by local chefs) meal for 60 generous patrons last Thursday.
The evening featured a five-course meal with local wines- with live musical entertainment- at $150.00 per person.
Loudoun Interfaith Relief’ll pass on that money to their ever-growing number of clients: they distributed enough food last year to make about a half-million meals.
This boost should help them put the buck where it’ll do the most good.
Thanks for joining us- I’m Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader. Hope you caught that nice, pink sunrise this morning on all that fresh snow.