Dirt-covered photographs from her sister’s wedding, a pair of shoes and two new headbands were just about all Woodbridge resident Jessica Vitela could save from her home, which was consumed by muddy sewer water Thursday.
Dressed in borrowed clothes, with tears in her eyes, 13-year-old Jessica said she left Fred Lynn Middle School on Tuesday afternoon to go before Prince William County Supervisors and plead for assistance along with dozens of others impacted by last week’s flood.
“We have no house, we have no place to go after Friday when the shelter closes,” Jessica said. “My mom has high blood pressure and is sick. I want them to help my family, I need them to.”
The unprecedented rainfall Thursday caused flooding in the Holly Acres and Marumsco mobile home parks, businesses and a condo community where a retaining wall gave way. The greatest damage was to Holly Acres, along Route 1. Fifteen inches of rain fell, swelling Marumsco creek so that it engulfed the mobile home community. Almost 70 of the 108 units have been condemned, and 150 to 170 people are homeless, county officials said.
“It’s hard to believe we lost everything in 30 minutes,” said Holly Acres resident Briana Jimenez, who was one of several holding signs asking their Woodbridge supervisor Frank Principi (D ) for help. “Our childhood is gone, our memories are gone. … Nobody expected this.”
More than 260 flood victims signed a petition that was presented to county supervisors, asking them to extend the makeshift shelter that is set to close Friday and provide more resources for a community that lost everything.
“We need enough funds to assist people until everyone has a home,” Mexicans Without Borders representative Ricardo Juarez said. “The county has done a good job … but if they cut help, that will be the second tragedy for all these people.”
Prince William County schools have partnered with the government to provide a place for monetary donations. People interested in helping can donate by credit card, PayPal or checks made payable to the PWCS Education Foundation.
Checks can be sent to SPARK, P.O. Box 389 Manassas, VA 20108, and should have “flood relief” written in the subject line. For more information, visit the announcements section on www.pwcs.edu.
People who know of properties for rent, or property owners who would waive security deposits or first month’s rent, are being asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
County officials said they plan to close the shelter at Dale City Recreation Center on Friday, and there is no plan to open another shelter. Federal Emergency Management Agency and state officials are scheduled to visit the area this week and assess whether there is enough damage to warrant state and federal aid.
“We need the feds to do their jobs,” Prince William Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said. “When other communities are hit by disasters, FEMA comes in. I’d like people to contact Congressman [Gerry] Connolly. … He really should be helping.”
Holly Acres was built roughly 60 years ago and is in a FEMA-designated floodway. County officials said federal regulations do not allow redevelopment in a floodway.
Prince William officials said they can’t provide long-term housing for people. They county is asking the community to step forward with donations and any housing opportunities. Prince William’s housing and social services departments are on hand to see if people qualify for food stamps or other federal aid, officials said.
“We don’t want to give false hope that the county can find [everyone] homes,” Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor said. “The county government doesn’t operate housing, and we can’t keep the shelter going. We are trying to help people help themselves.”