Aftermath of a Deluge
Monday, June 25, 2007
The most terrifying sound in the world to Henny Toet is the pitter-patter of raindrops.
"I am still scared to death every time it starts raining," said Toet, 73, who lives in the Huntington section of Fairfax County.
Toet is not alone. Up and down Fenwick Drive, neighbors pour out of their houses whenever a heavy rain falls. Some move their cars to higher ground at a nearby Metro station. Others walk to the end of the street to monitor the water level at Cameron Run, fearing a repeat of the flooding that drove them out of their homes a year ago today.
"Every time it rains real hard, people get all concerned," resident Christine Tooley said. "The first thing you do is move your car. Some people might see that as trivial, but once you have already lost it once, you don't want to do it again, and it is about the only thing you can control if it floods again."
The floods, caused by a rare tropical deluge that swamped houses, highways and federal buildings throughout the Washington area, came suddenly in the dark of night, rushing through the neighborhood like a tidal surge. In what seemed like minutes, cars were submerged and people were hurrying to get out of their homes alive as the water continued to rise.
More than half of the neighborhood's 311 houses were damaged, causing an estimated $10 million in losses. Residents were forced to find temporary shelter for about a week until Fairfax officials said it was safe to return.
Yesterday, the people of Huntington threw a party to celebrate their comeback. They have rebuilt their houses and dealt with their anger, frustration and, in many cases, economic hardship. The neighbors have grown closer and stronger. After the flood, Tooley had promised a couple of her neighbors that they would have a party in a year to mark the date.
"I would describe it as a celebration of our recovery," said Harry Shepler, 47, who organized the party. "This is our new neighborhood, and we want to celebrate with those who are still here."
Toet moved into the neighborhood in 1989. On the night of the flood, her experience was typical of those of many of her neighbors. Her husband, Nicholas Martinez, warned her that the water was rising on the street.
" 'Hey, we have a flood,' " Toet remembered him saying.
" 'Relax,' " she said she told him. " 'Sometimes the street fills up with a little water.' "
Then she looked out the window and saw that this wasn't any ordinary street flooding.