Major thunderstorms, such as those that struck Washington over the weekend, usually overload the sewer system causing street flooding in four areas of the city, District officials said yesterday. Motorists should beware of driving on these streets and intersections when a hard rain falls.
Traditional trouble spots, according to the D.C. Department of Public Works, are the Ivy City area between West Virginia Avenue and Mount Olivet Road NE; Sixth Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE, which is at the underpass near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station; Third and Sheridan streets NW, and First and P streets NW.
"In a sudden, heavy rainstorm, these areas often get too much water for the drain," said Otto James, chief of sewer services bureau for the Department of Public Works. "But the flooding can and does occur elsewhere, especially if there is trash in the street that blocks the mouth of the drain."
James said the city's sewers are designed for a 15-year rainfall, which means that once in every 15 years the rain might be hard enough to cause flooding. The final water guage reports have not been tabulated, he said, adding that Saturday's thunderstorm was more like one officials expect once every 60 years.
Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the agency, said the weekend's thunderstorms didn't constitute a flood, but did overload the sewer system.
"In a heavy, heavy rain, you have to be careful wherever you go," she said.
Evelyn Ruiz, a secretary at S&N Auto Service in the 600 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE, said the flooding was so bad there Saturday that customers couldn't pick up their cars and employes were stranded there for two hours by flood waters that also damaged the office.
"The water was up to the knees -- it happens every time it rains," she said.
The fierce weekend thunderstorms also caused severe flooding in basement in the 200 block of F Street NE, according to Nancy Lucas, a resident of one of the houses. She said this is the second time in six months that sewer pipes have overflowed, "and the water comes in like Niagara."
The Mayor's Command Center puts out a brochure listing areas of the city where flooding causes traffic problems, but public works spokeswoman Hamilton said these problems occur when the river overflows after a prolonged rainfall.
The weekend storms did not cause the river to overflow, she said, "and a lot of reports of flooding over the weekend were not in traditional areas."
When actual river flooding occurs, Hamilton said, the brochure lists the Rock Creek Parkway, Hains Point and other waterfront areas, Beach Drive into the park, Oxon Run Creek near Atlantic Street SE and Watts Branch Creek near Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE as areas that drivers should avoid.
The George Washington Parkway near the 14th Street Bridge is another area where flooding is apt to occur if the river is already high, according to the National Park Service.
Traffic and homes weren't the only casualties of the weekend storm. During Saturday's sudden, heavy rainfall, the eternal flame at John Kennedy's grave in Arlington National Cemetery went out for about five minutes. A spokesman for the cemetery said the flame memorial marking the slain president's grave occasionally goes out in heavy rain. Staff writer Kuae Noel Kelch contributed to this report.