The Historic Triangle – and most of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia – is under an air quality alert again today as smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to roll into Virginia.
Much of the region was under a Code Orange alert yesterday, meaning the air was unhealthy for sensitive groups, including young children, older folks, and people of all ages with asthma or other respiratory ailments or heart conditions.
We’re now under a Code Red alert until 12 a.m. Friday, so the air quality is expected to be worse than it was yesterday. Code Red alerts mean the air is unhealthy for anyone to breathe, and the general public may experience health effects.
Wildfire smoke can cause symptoms like watery or burning eyes, wheezing, coughing and sneezing. Cardiovascular patients may be at an increased risk for stroke or heart attack, and people with asthma or respiratory conditions may experience breathing difficulties or other health complications.
More than 400 wildfires are currently burning in Canada, and poor air quality may persist in our area through at least the weekend, according to weather.com.
As for the general weather forecast, there may be some spotty showers on Thursday, with hazy or cloudy skies and highs in the mid-70s, according to Meteorologist April Loveland of WTKR News 3.
Temperatures will remain in the mid-70s on Friday, and scattered showers will be possible again during the afternoon or evening. The rest of the weekend should be dry. Highs will creep up to around 80 Saturday and continue to warm to the mid-80s Sunday.
Now to the news.
(Image per DC Homeland Security & Emergency Management via Twitter)
1. Colonial Williamsburg will offer free admission on both June 19 and July 4.
- In honor of Juneteenth and Independence Day, Colonial Williamsburg will offer free admission to the Historic Area and Art Museums on June 19 and July 4.
- Visitors can claim complimentary single-day tickets by pre-registering for Juneteenth tickets here and July 4 tickets here.
- “Offering free admission on Juneteenth and July 4 upholds our commitment to making Colonial Williamsburg’s educational resources accessible to as many people as possible so that together we can better understand our history and more effectively continue in our pursuit of a more perfect union,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
- Colonial Williamsburg will commemorate Juneteenth this year with a sunrise service on Sunday, June 18 at 6 a.m. under the Compton Oak. The service will feature a keynote address by Tina Lifford, CEO of a wellbeing initiative known as The Inner Fitness Project and an actress who most recently finished shooting the final season of the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, Queen Sugar. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when thousands of enslaved people were finally emancipated upon the enactment of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed more than two years earlier.
- Free admission on Monday, June 19, will include access to various special programs, including a visit from New Orleans master blacksmith Darryl Reeves at the Public Armoury (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) a drum circle under the Compton Oak (11:30 a.m.), a special viewing of the Albert Durant photography collection – photos taken by Williamsburg’s first Black city-licensed photographer – at the Lane Auditorium (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.) and various tours, exhibitions and theatrical programming offered throughout the day. See a full list of Juneteenth events happening throughout the region at juneteenthcc.org/events.
- July 4 will be celebrated at Colonial Williamsburg with fireworks and a series of special programs.
- The festivities will kick off at 9:30 a.m. with Thomas Jefferson reading the Declaration of Independence from the Capitol West balcony. Additional programming will include a Salute to the States with the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums and a musket volley in Market Square (10:30 a.m.); a noon reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Colonial Courthouse; and Lights of Freedom, a celebration of the words and music of the American Revolution, beginning on Palace Green at 8 p.m. Guests may bring chairs, blankets and food to enjoy during the concert. Visit colonialwilliamsburg.org/july4 for a full list of Independence Day events at Colonial Williamsburg.
- A fireworks display above the Governor’s Palace, sponsored by the City of Williamsburg, will begin at 9:30 p.m. The fireworks display will last about 20 minutes and can be viewed from Palace Green, Market Square and the eastern side of the Lawn of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
- There will be no rain date for the July 4 fireworks. If inclement weather arises, the foundation will provide updates on the status of the fireworks on its social media channels. The fireworks will be posted on the foundation’s social media channels. To opt in for weather-related July 4 information via text message, please text CWEVENT to 226787.
2. York County’s Board of Supervisors approved an agreement to merge its 911 center with James City County.
- The York County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of a proposal to combine its 911 operations center with James City County.
- Under a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement, York County’s regional emergency operations center – which already serves York County, Poquoson and Williamsburg – will expand to also cover James City County.
- The James City County 911 Center, currently located in Toano, will close down but will remain available as a backup emergency operations site. Dispatchers currently working for James City County will become employees of York County and will be required to permanently work out of the regional 911 center.
- The proposal to combine the centers has sparked ongoing debate, particularly in James City County, where dispatchers have largely opposed the consolidation. At a James City County Board of Supervisors meeting on April 25, supervisors acknowledged that they received a large volume of letters, emails and phone calls from local residents who were concerned about the merger. Stonehouse District Supervisor Sue Sadler voted in favor of the plan but emphasized that the decision was “very, very difficult.”
- Why the merger is controversial: An online petition against the merger was created in March by a former James City County police officer who remains friendly with the dispatchers. The petition was signed by nearly 2,000 people. It argued that the consolidation would create safety concerns because the York-Poquoson-Williamsburg center is “already chaotic and overwhelmed.” It also states that the agreement would be unfair to James City County dispatchers, many of whom do not want to become employees of York County. Under the merger, employees would have to drive about 45 minutes from the site they had been working in, the petition says. The two centers are 28 miles apart.
- At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, June 6, York County Administrator Neil Morgan said the possibility of merging the two centers has long been discussed “off and on for as long as I’ve been here.” He added that the decision to consolidate the two centers was made for two reasons. First, 911 centers nationwide are facing “extreme labor market challenges,” and understaffing at James City County’s center had become a public safety concern, he said. The second primary factor was an electrical fire that broke out in February at the James City County Center. The center has remained closed since then, with James City County dispatchers working out of the York County regional center.
- “I think many people saw the benefits of a more consolidated operations center,” Morgan said. “The question was how could we thoughtfully make this a permanent arrangement.”
- Morgan said the agreement will be cost-neutral to York County because James City County will make a financial contribution to cover the cost of employment for their existing dispatchers, management costs and the costs of filling staffing vacancies.
- Only 14 or 15 of the full-time James City County dispatchers are planning to transfer to the regional center out of the 28 that were designated for James City County, according to Emergency Communications Center Director Terry Hall. York County will need to quickly hire additional employees to account for the remaining vacancies.
- “We’re going to be short of folks, but we’re in the hiring process,” Hall said.
- The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the arrangement for a final time next Tuesday, June 13. If finalized, the consolidation is expected to go into full effect in July.
3. A replica of a Swedish tall ship is coming to Yorktown.
- A Swedish tall ship known as the Kalmar Nyckel will make its way to the shores of the York River on Thursday, June 13.
- The ship is a full-scale replica of a Swedish merchant ship that brought settlers to North America in 1638 and founded the first European settlement in present-day Delaware.
- Visitors can enjoyday sails lasting 2.5 hours from June 15 to June 17. From June 15 to 17, patrons sailing on the ship will be able to haul lines, set sails and hear tales from the crew – or just relax and enjoy the trip. Children will also be treated to a scavenger hunt and pirate story, and costumes are welcome.
- “As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Kalmar Nyckel’s Commissioning and her 25th sailing season, we are excited to return to Historic Yorktown after many years. We look forward to connecting with the town’s maritime traditions and scenic riverfront,” said Cathy Parsells, Executive Director of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation.
- Want to go for a sail? Sailing trips will be offered on Thursday, June 15 from 3 – 5:30 p.m.; Friday, June 16 from 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 3 – 5:30 p.m; and Saturday, June 17 from 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 5 – 7:30 p.m. Arrival time is 30 minutes prior to departure, and the ship can be accessed from Riverwalk Landing Piers. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 302-429-7447. Advance reservations are highly recommended.
- Free deck tours will also be available on Tuesday, June 13 from 2 – 5 p.m. and Thursday, June 15, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. The deck tours are sponsored by the Yorktown Foundation Tall Ships Committee and York County.
- The Yorktown Foundation Tall Ships Committee was chartered to encourage tall ships of the world to dock at the Riverwalk Landing Piers and serve as an educational experience to learn about the vessels’ impact in history.
- For more information, visit KalmarNyckel.org or follow Kalmar Nyckel on Facebook and Instagram.
4. A new Aromas location has opened at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
- The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is gearing up to celebrate the opening of 1781 Café by Aromas.
- The details: The new café features a “coffee-centric” menu. It builds on the success of the popular AromasWorld restaurant locations on Prince George Street in Williamsburg, the Swem Library at William & Mary and The Captain’s Den in Newport News. Patrons will find a variety of tasty food and beverage offerings, including a variety of grab-and-go options.
- An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is set to be held in partnership with York County Economic & Tourism Development and the Jamestown-Yorktown Educational Trust at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 13. The public is invited to attend the event, and the first 100 people who make a purchase at the new coffee shop will receive a commemorative Silipint pint glass.
- In addition to serving up Aromas’ coffee and espresso drinks, the new café’s menu includes an assortment of homemade specialty sandwiches and salads, pastries, cookies, fine teas, chai, fruit smoothies and more. The café will also offer healthy boxed lunches, available for pre-order, for adult and school groups.
- When to go: 1781 Café by Aromas is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the museum, which is located at 200 Water Street in Yorktown. Seating is available on a first-come, first-seated basis. Guests can also dine outdoors at the museum’s picnic areas. For more information, call (757) 847-3107.
5. The mother of the 6-year-old Newport News child who shot his teacher is now facing federal gun charges.
- Deja Taylor, the mother of the 6-year-old Richneck Elementary School student who police say shot his teacher in January, is now facing federal gun charges.
- Taylor was charged in federal court Monday with unlawful use of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. Court documents also state that she was unlawfully using marijuana.
- Taylor plans to plead guilty to the charges, according to her attorney.
- “Deja Taylor will enter guilty pleas to the charges that were filed today as an information by the U.S. Attorneys’ office of the Eastern District of Virginia,” Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, said in a statement. “We intend to present mitigating evidence that we trust the Court will view favorably at sentencing later this year following preparation of a pre-sentence report.”
- Abby Zwerner, the first-grade teacher who was shot by the boy on January 6, sustained injuries to her hand and chest and is still recovering. She has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school district, alleging gross negligence. According to the suit, multiple staff members repeatedly warned the district that the boy had a gun on the day of the shooting, but they failed to intervene.
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