A total of 37 apartments in the Lyndhurst Apartment complex in Fairfax City were evacuated and condemned on Thursday as a result of tornado damage. The Washington Post incorrectly reported yesterday the evacuation occurred in the nearby Williamsburg Square complex. CAPTION: Picture 1, Insurance claim adjuster Richard Frick examines car that was flattened by a roof on Wyoming Ave. By Douglas Chevalier -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, A horse farm near Frederick, Md., is buried in water deposited by the storm. By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post; Picture 3, A Charlottesville woman, above, finds the going difficult in 40 mph winds generated by Tropical Storm David. UPI; Picture 4, Cabin cruiser at yacht club near Alexandria was one of several damaged. By Ken Feil -- The Washington Post; Map, Severe Tropical Storm Damage in the Metropolitan Area, The Washington Post
Tropical storm David's vicious winds and torrential rains left Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia residents with a multimillion dollar cleanup job yesterday after forcing hundreds of residents from their homes and flooding and blocking roads and highways.
At least four persons were killed in Washington and the two states during the long and fearful night that saw a number of small tornadoes swoop out of the remnants of Hurricane David and smash through buildings and parkland. Yesterday's dawn, however, brought clearing skies and sunlight to illuminate the damage. The National Weather Service said there is no chance of rain today as David moves out to the Northeast steadily losing strength.
The Washington area itself saw two storm-related fatalities, at least two and possibly five small tornadoes, the destruction of at least three bridges and extensive property damage -- particularly in Fairfax City.
Outside the Washington area, the heaviest damage was reported in downtown Baltimore near the Inner Harbor and in the Tidewater section of Virginia, especially in Newport News.
In terms of rainfall totals, duration and fatalities, David was a mere pup compared to Tropical Storm Agnes of 1972. Nonetheless, the National Park Service reported that damage to Rock Creek Park through the center of Washington and along the George Washington Parkway in the Mount Vernon area was worse than that incurred during Agnes.
Parts of the southbound lane of Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park were to remain closed, probably through today, because of storm damage. A section of Washington Boulevard in Arlington County between George Mason Drive and Glebe Road will also be closed. Those are the only two major commuter highways with that status, officials said.
But many neighborhood lanes and small roads still had standing water or small bridge and culvert damage that made them impassable. Highway officials declined yesterday to say when everything would be back to normal.
The storm had wind gusts the National Weather Service estimated at 50 to 60 miles an hour and ripped down trees and electric lines throughout the region, according to power company spokesmen. As many as 2,000 customers of the area's two major power companies could still be without service today. At one time, 140,000 customers lost power -- about one electric user in every five in the metropolitan area.
Telephone lines also were down and C&P Telephone Co. estimated that a total of 4,300 of its 1.5 million area customers lost service. Some phones will remain out until late today, a spokesman said.
The most striking visual impression of the storm damage as viewed from the air was its fickle nature. A few trees would be uprooted in one spot, while a few feet away lawns were neatly manicured without even any fallen twigs.
Possible tornadoes -- none of them lasting more than a minute or two -- were reported in Fairfax City off Little River Turnpike, in Fort Hunt Park near Mount Vernon, in Great Falls, in the Sugarland Run subdivision of Loudoun County and, possibly, in the Kalorama Triangle area of Northwest Washington, just east of Rock Creek Park and north of Dupont Circle.
A total of 37 apartment units were evacuated and condemned in the Williamsburg Square apartments in Fairfax City. Tom Wells, director of public information for the city, said the units had received "extensive roof damage and several roofs were blown off. We haven't found some of them yet."
Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton made a quick tour of that area yesterday afternoon, but seemed more concerned with what he had seen in Newport News earlier yesterday.
Standing on the front lawn of the Frank Cervi home on Baccarat Drive, Dalton said, "I've been to perhaps 10 homes in Newport News that were in this fix." Cervi had lost his roof and second-floor walls.
Officials at the National Weather Service yesterday did not actually classify any of the wind damage in the Washington area as resulting from tornadoes, because that requires an official investigation.
James Campbell, a meteorologist at weather service headquarters, said "there probably were a couple of short-lived tornadoes in the D.C. area." Such twisters, he said, are frequently found in the "northeast quadrant of decaying hurricanes -- and that's exactly what we had here. We really don't know the reasons why."
The weather service issued its first tornado "warning" at 8 Wednesday night -- after the damage had been done in Fairfax City and Loudoun County. The "warning" was only for Loudoun County. A "warning" means that actual damage has occurred or that a tornado has been spotted.
A tornado "watch," an advisory that such a storm might be coming, was never issued. "We will not issue public tornado watches in a hurricane situation because we feel that rain and high winds are potentially more important," Campbell said. "It gets very confusing to the public when there are all kinds of warnings for floods or tornadoes." Advisories on David, which have been on the weather service wire for days, had predicted the possibility of local flooding and tornadoes.
Hurricane David was downgraded to a tropical storm after it came ashore in the Carolinas, leaving at least 1,000 deaths in its wake. It moved slowly through South and North Carolina Tuesday and Wednesday, and was centered just north of Greensboro at 6 p.m. Wednesday. But the winds and rains of the storm were already lashing the Washington area. Then David began to move more quickly -- first north to Charlottesville by 9 p.m., then directly over Dulles Airport by midnight. Most of the heavy damage -- other than flooding and water seepage -- came before the center of the storm.
Flooding threatened to be a problem Wednesday night at that traditional Washington area spot -- Four Mile Run in Arlandria between Alexandria and Arlington. Residents in the apartments on the Alexandria side were warned before midnight that they might have to evacuate. With a curious excitement they crowded along the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge over the run and watched the swift current rise within six inches of the top.
About 11:30, the waters began to recede and the crowd dwindled. A flood had been averted, doubtless by a $55 million Corps of Engineers project that was started after Arlandria went under in 1975.
The Potomac River is expected to crest at Little Falls at 1 p.m. today, about half a foot over flood stage of 10 feet. "It will be a good show, with no damage," weather service river forecaster Leo Harrison said. The Potomac was swollen and ugly brown yesterday.
The Monocacy River through Frederick, another flood site, crested harmlessly last night at 10 feet above flood stage. However, a swollen tributary of the Monocacy caused an estimated $250,000 damage in other parts of the county. Most heavily hit was Thurmont, near Camp David, where 40 people were forced from their homes and a sewage treatment plant was flooded.
Maryland appeared to be most heavily hit in the area with a total of 600 people evacuated statewide, including some who left their homes voluntarily as a precaution and returned later to find no damage done.
In Baltimore City, 250 residents were forced from their homes and at one point Baltimore police used rowboats borrowed from Sears to rescue some city residents. Baltimore's 27-story World Trade Center, part of the massive urban renewal in the Inner Harbor area, was closed because of severe flooding in the basement that cut all electrical power and phone service.
Damage in Tidewater Virginia was heaviest in Newport News, where estimates ran to $2 million as a tornado ripped through a fashionable section of $200,000 homes. "It sounded like a subway coming. I knew it could only be one thing," said Col. Bruce Jacobs, whose home was spared major damage.
Both Gov. Dalton and Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes delayed final decisions until at least today on whether they would seek federal flood relief aid for their states.
It was a bad day for Amtrak. At the height of the storm Wednesday night, the Amtrak line between Washington and Baltimore was under two to three feet of water at Cheverly. When that was cleared, mud remained and had to be moved. When that was done, another mudslide closed the line at the Baltimore tunnel.
Amtrak finally got going on one of its for tracks about 11 a.m. yesterday, then had to back the train into Washington again when a work train derailed at the Baltimore tunnel and closed it again. By late afternoon, service was returning to normal, according to spokesmen.