There was just too much rain on Sunday afternoon for the massive skylight over the lobby of the new District of Columbia Courthouse to handle. So, it leaked.
A surprised building guard first saw the water coming down inside, said building manager Michael Williams. When it stopped, water had covered floors in six courtrooms, corridors were soaked, ceilings damaged and the huge bank of escalators that stands six stories high beneath the skylight was all wet. The building, the home of the Superior Court, is at 500 Indiana Ave. NW.
"It was not all that tragic," said Sam D. Starobin, the city's director of general services. "I'm sure there were a lot of leaking buildings" in the wake of the more than one inch of rain that fell in two hours on Sunday afternoon.
Starobin said that it apppeared that the rain water came down so fact Sunday that the skylight drainage system was unable to handle it. Apparently, the excess came into the courthouse through "weepholes" in the skylight, which are designed to let condensation escape from inside the building, he said.
"You can't design for the ultimate mother nature can throw at you," Starobin said in a telephone interview.
Starobin noted that while the Washington area has been drenched with heavy rains for days, Sunday was the first time the inside of the new, $40 million courthouse got wet.
"So, I would hardly say we have a defective skylight," Starobin said.
Clean up crews worked through the night to mop up the water in time for the opening of court yesterday. The six dampended courtrooms were closed for the day, according to building manager Williams. Four of the courtrooms are expected to be dried out by today but the remaining two will need some repairs, Williams said.
Yesterday, as repairmen checked out the condition of the escalators, the court's four elevators were crammed with people. The only signs of the wetness were yellow buckets on the floors and missing tiles in the ceilings.
Starobin estimated cleanup and repairs might cost "a couple of thousand dollars."
Sunday's heavy rains also caused flooding, in some areas as deep as three feet, in eight apartments in two buildings located on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville, Montgomery County fire officials said.
The flooding occurred when Rock Creek overflowed and spilled water into the apartments' backyards, officials said. Three families were evacuated from their apartments, officials said. There was no estimate of damage.