Rock Creek, the swath of greenery that cuts through Northwest Washington, suffered an estimated $374,000 worth of damage in last week's tropical storm, much of which will not fully be repaired until next spring, the U.S. Park Service said yesterday.
The gusting 50- to 60-mile-an-hour winds and torrential rainfall of Tropical Storm David uprooted trees or tore away large branches, clogged portions of the creek, demolished small footbridges and carried away hundreds of picnic tables, benches and trash cans, according to James J. Redmond, superintendent of the park.
Since the storm last Wednesday, part of Rock Creek Parkway, the winding, 30-mile road through the park, has been closed southbound. Work crews, some of them working overtime and weekends, have been trying to repair the road for full use by next Monday, Redmond said.
Flood water undermined and eroded the sandy soil and landfill beneath the asphalt roadway, collapsing parts and lifting chucks of road that later were deposited several yards away, Redmond said. The water has now receded.
"I came down here the day after the storm and there was water rushing down the roadways," Redmond said. "There were picnic tables, trash cans laying on the banks and the sound of the creek was a mighty roar."
The flood waters breached creek banks, spilling three feet or more of rushing water over park roads and carrying away an estimated 175 picnic tables, 75 benches and 75 trash receptacles, a repair cost estimated at $30,000, Redmond said. All picnic areas were flooded and 50 percent of the parking lots throughout the park were inundated.
The overflow also scoured much of the creek's banks, carving deep ruts and removing soil and rocks, thus weakening supports for some bridges and roadways.
Although full repairs will not be completed until spring, Redmond said that bicyclists, joggers and picnickers are still encouraged to come enjoy the park's 1,754 acres, most of which were unaffected. He said the parkway, from Broad Branch Road to Joyce Road at Military Road will, as usual, be closed on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for joggers and bicyclists.
"We want people back in here to use the park," he said. "It's still a place where people can get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. They can still use the bike trails even though parts of them have been closed. Park Police have been alerted that some cyclists will use roads where trails are closed."
Redmond said road crews are rush-