Wind storm’s toll on Prince William Co.: National park closed for weeks; what’s next for Potomac Mills sign?

Video courtesy: VDOT

WASHINGTON — It will take weeks or longer to clean up from last week’s windstorm, especially in Prince William County, Virginia, where a national park will be closed for weeks and the future of the iconic Potomac Mills sign is unclear.

Prince William Forest Park suffered damage worse than that from recent hurricanes or even the 2012 derecho, and will be closed for two to three weeks, the National Park Service said Tuesday.

It could take that long just to clean up hundreds of downed trees (and more at risk of falling), damaged historic cabins and downed power lines and make the park safe.

The RV campground at Virginia Route 234 will remain open, although some areas are closed off.

Potomac Mills sign future

The Potomac Mills sign was bent by Friday’s wind, causing the closure of the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 Friday, Saturday and Sunday before it was ripped down late Sunday night to allow the highway to reopen. Replacing the sign could be a lengthy process, and the mall has not yet committed to a specific plan.

A mall spokesperson told WTOP there are no plans yet for a replacement, and the mall would not release details on any costs or reimbursement to other companies or agencies tied to the windstorm.

Any new sign built with more support would require a new permit review by Prince William County.

The county’s emergency response to the sign, and assistance with road closures, is being treated as a typical response that does not require any reimbursement from the mall, a county spokesperson said.

Tolls on the 95 Express Lanes were waived from Friday through Sunday to allow southbound traffic to divert from the regular lanes. Transurban, the company which operates the lanes, told WTOP it would not be seeking any compensation from the Virginia Department of Transportation due to the emergency response and changes.

“As partner to the Department, we were pleased to offer our support to safeguard drivers and maintain regional mobility options. We will not pursue payment from VDOT under the terms of a compensation event,” Transurban’s Mike McGurk said in an email.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, a VDOT spokeswoman was still looking into how the agency would cover its costs.

The sign weighed 50,000 pounds and had nearly 15,000 LEDs. It was put up in late 2011 to replace the previous sign, which was damaged in a windstorm the prior winter. The earlier sign had been in place since the mall opened in 1985.

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