Flood cleanup continues in D.C. region

September 10, 2011

People across the Washington region used the clear weather Saturday to continue cleaning up the mess left behind by last week’s torrential rains, which flooded many communities and led to at least four deaths.

Homeowners, some wearing rubber suits and gloves, braved basements filled with mud and water to salvage trinkets and toss stereo systems, water heaters and washing machines.

Officials were working to have schools and government buildings that were closed by the flooding ready to reopen Monday.

Fairfax County, in particular Huntington near Cameron Run stream, was one of the hardest hit pockets in the region. Three of the storm’s local victims, including a 12-year-old boy, died in Fairfax. Another person died in Anne Arundel County.

Fairfax employees inspected more than 160 homes in Huntington over the weekend. Although none was deemed uninhabitable, nearly all had water-related problems, such as lack of power. Teams will continue to assess the damage “as long as is needed,” county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said.

In interviews, Huntington residents complained that county officials had not done enough to protect homes.

“We’ve been through this before, and nothing has been done,” said Karen Callaham, 60, who was living in her house on Arlington Terrace in June 2006, when a worse storm ravaged the area.

County officials will discuss their next steps at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday and a community meeting in Mount Vernon on Wednesday. Officials are expected to discuss the possibilities of building a levee in Cameron Run and of redeveloping the area.

Either would take months or years, county officials said.

The county shelter set up for the storm was closed Friday night. At most, about a dozen residents stayed at any one time in the shelter, located at the Lee District recreation center in Franconia, Fitzgerald said.

Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin said he hopes to have county cleanup efforts “mostly completed” within two weeks. He said he is satisfied with how plans to protect against future flooding are going.

“For all practical purposes, it’s going as well as we could hope under the circumstances,” he said.

On Saturday, more than 130 Huntington residents headed into the Huntington Community Center to pick up cleanup kits, food and water.

Isaac Thompson, 24, was sitting outside his mother’s house on Fenwick Drive, another street hit hard by the storm.

Thompson showed a reporter his basement room. His mattress remained in the room, and a pool of water was collecting underneath. A line on the green wallpaper showed how high the water rose: three feet. During the 2006 storm, water filled the basement.

“We did the best of anyone I know on the deep end,” said Thompson, who said he plans to move out of his mother’s house.

In Prince William’s County, the makeshift shelter at Woodbridge High School is scheduled to close Sunday, and people there will be relocated to the Sharon Baucom Dale City Recreation Center, county officials said.

Closed to the public, the recreation center will serve as a shelter until Friday, officials said. All programs will be canceled except the state-licensed preschool.

More than 300 people were at the Woodbridge shelter Friday after two mobile home neighborhoods and an apartment complex were evacuated from flooding.

Holly Acres Mobile Home Park off Route 1 was destroyed when Marumsco Creek engulfed it. Roughly 100 homes in the park were condemned, county officials said.

In Prince George’s County, work crews continued this weekend to clean up debris and repair damage at the County Administration Building, which closed last week after two feet of water flooded the Upper Marlboro building’s basement.

In a statement, county spokesman Scott Peterson said officials had not decided whether the building will reopen Monday.

Karen Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Council, said Saturday that regularly scheduled meetings for the council Monday and Tuesday will be relocated to the Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Auditorium in Riverdale. A joint public hearing with the Planning Board at 7 p.m. Tuesday will also be held in the auditorium.

The courthouse, which was shut down for two days last week because of the flood, will be open Monday, said David J. Billings, a spokesman.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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