A Feb. 21 article on the threat of flooding this weekend incorrectly placed the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood in Northeast. It is in Northwest Washington. (Published 2/22/03)
Just as the snow shovels were being put away yesterday, many Washington area residents were breaking out the buckets and sandbags in preparation for a different kind of meteorological wrath: flooding.
With this weekend's forecast calling for rain and lots of melting snow, floodgates were deployed at entrances to the Amazonia exhibit at the National Zoo. In Old Town Alexandria, two trailers of sandbags were sent to the waterfront. And around the region, crews worked to clear snow and ice from street drains, while homeowners -- weary from shoveling last weekend's heavy snowfall but wary of new trouble -- tended to gutters, downspouts and foundations.
Lurking in the minds of many is what followed the major snowfall of 1996, when a combination of rain and melting snow led to widespread flash flooding, road closures, swamped basements and power outages.
"I gotta get it done before all this heavy rain they're expecting," said Tony Mallin, 43, as he headed out of a Fairfax City hardware store yesterday with a ladder and new brackets for a fallen gutter. "This whole area is built on farmland and streams. I just don't want to see water inside."
Of the gutters and downspouts on his Falls Church house, Jeff Ogle said: "Everything is flowing -- I checked today. We shoveled out the downspouts, and then we shoveled a [40-foot] path for the water to go down to the street."
"Now we're just waiting," said his wife, Linda.
The National Weather Service continued to warn yesterday of possible flooding this weekend but said the chances had diminished somewhat.
"It's too early to tell, but the models are backing off on the precipitation right now," said John Newkirk, a program manager at the Weather Service. "It was giving us three to four inches of rain over the weekend. Now it's giving one-half an inch to an inch."
Even so, the Weather Service reported that with the current forecast of rain and temperatures in the low 50s, and with the snow on the ground being the equivalent of one to three inches of rain, "several sites in the Potomac and Rappahannock basins could reach or exceed flood stage."
To help with the runoff, local governments have been urging residents to clear snow and ice from storm drains on the street and around gutter spouts at home.
Crews from the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority cleaned out catch basins and storm drains yesterday in spots prone to flash flooding and backups. The city has 25,000 basins and drains in its network of pipes and conduits to handle storm water runoff, said authority spokeswoman Libby Lawson.
City emergency officials have alerted the D.C. National Guard and told the Department of Public Works to be ready to fill sandbags, said D.C. Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Joellen Countee.
The areas in the District considered most likely to be affected are Capitol Hill and the Ivy City-Trinidad and Bloomingdale neighborhoods in Northeast Washington.
In Old Town Alexandria, city workers brought about 1,000 sandbags to King Street for residents and businesses to use in the event of flooding. Workers also cleared catch basins and storm drains and prepared signs and barricades for possible street closings.
"We can only go on what the forecasters say," said Douglas McCobb, the city's deputy director of operations for transportation and environmental services. "And based on what I've heard so far, there seems like a good possibility of flooding."
The prospect of flooding has inspired a spate of home improvements. At the Fairfax City Home Depot yesterday afternoon, customers were buying sump pumps, gutters and black plastic tubing to direct water away from their houses. Still, many acknowledged that there was only so much they could do.
"Of course I'm worried about the flooding," said one woman. "They say you should shovel the snow away from the foundations, but who's got the strength for that? I mean, really. The only sensible thing do, I think, is that we should all move to someplace warmer."
Staff writers Avram Goldstein and Karlyn Barker contributed to this report.