Public schools in Montgomery County will be closed tomorrow in observance of Yom Kippur. The information was incorrect in a story on yesterday's front page. (Published 09/19/1999)
Tens of thousands of households and businesses in the Washington area remained without power yesterday after Hurricane Floyd's dash through the mid-Atlantic, while closer to the coastline of Virginia and Maryland, floodwaters kept several towns submerged and contaminated a city's water supply.
Churlish in impact and finicky in location, the storm cast large pockets of both states into darkness, and officials said power may not be restored for thousands of customers until next week.
The Maryland suburbs were hardest hit, reporting nearly 100,000 households and businesses still without power as of yesterday afternoon in Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties. A few thousand customers were still in the dark in Northern Virginia at the end of the day, as were about 7,000 in the District.
Utility companies said the delays in repairing the outages were the result of the overwhelming breadth of the damage, which included utility poles, substations and transformers, as well as downed wires.
"We've been solidly swamped," said Angela Walters, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which still had 219,000 Maryland customers without power late yesterday. "We know that our customers are getting irritated, that they've been having to be on hold for 15 or 20 minutes. We appreciate how frustrating that is."
All schools in Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, along with six schools in Montgomery, remained closed for a second day yesterday because of power problems and road conditions.
And while local airports resumed normal business after the widespread flight cancellations and delays of Thursday, rail service was nearly paralyzed.
Amtrak's busiest route, the Northeast Corridor, was severed by three feet of water on the tracks in Trenton, N.J., forcing the railroad to cancel all trains between Philadelphia and New York and leaving only sporadic service for travelers headed north from Washington. All trains south from Washington were canceled and Metroliner service was suspended, though officials hoped to resume this service in the evening.
VRE commuter trains resumed normal operations in Virginia, but MARC trains in Maryland operated on a reduced schedule.
The storm's aftermath around Washington paled in comparison with the cleanup in coastal areas. Hundreds of thousands remained without power and widespread flooding swamped roads, basements and yards from northeast Maryland to southeast Virginia.
More than 300 roads also remained closed in the two states, further hampering attempts by thousands of weary hurricane refugees to return to their homes on the Atlantic coast.
Flooding swamped the entire town of Crisfield on Maryland's Eastern Shore, as up to four feet of water flowed into more than 100 homes and businesses. And in Southside Virginia, a flooded water plant in Portsmouth left 120,000 people without drinking water, while downtown Franklin was buried yesterday under 12 feet of still-rising water.
Police in Franklin, west of Virginia Beach near the North Carolina border, evacuated a 10-square-block area because fuel was leaking into the flooded downtown.
"The water is still rising," said police Sgt. David Welch. "We're worried about the water igniting."
"For the eastern part of the state," said Janet Clements, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Services, "this is probably the worst flooding they've seen in years."
After coming ashore Thursday in North Carolina, Floyd barreled through southeast Virginia before heading back over water and up the Maryland coast. The storm poured nearly two feet of rain on some areas, with winds gusting up to 90 mph in Hampton Roads.
By yesterday, a dramatically weakened Floyd headed out to sea off the coast of Maine. The storm was blamed for five deaths in Maryland and Virginia, including a Centreville woman whose car was crushed Thursday by a falling tree. Virginia had been declared a federal disaster area, and crews from the Federal Emergency Management Agency drove through flooded roadways to assess the damage.
"I do feel for people trying to run a small business or trying to get their kids to school through all of this," Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) said after a helicopter tour of the hardest-hit areas in southeast Virginia.
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) issued an executive directive allowing state agencies to help private utilities in their post-Floyd efforts. The order also suspended many of the regulations governing utility workers, allowing them to work longer shifts.
"The damage is just a little greater than we thought, but we still don't think it's enough to trigger federal assistance," said Mike Morrill, a spokesman for Glendening.
Anne Arundel County had prepared for serious flooding along its 400-plus miles of waterfront as the fringe of the hurricane made its way up the Chesapeake Bay. Yet the county's most serious problem turned out to be the extensive electrical outages, worst in the Washington region. Some schools may not be able to reopen on Monday because of power problems. Most flooded roads had reopened yesterday, though many basements remained swamped.
Most of the roads in Prince George's County that were closed on Thursday because of flooding were reopened. Some 500 trees also were knocked down during the storm, and road crews spent the day clearing debris.
"The wind really did take its toll," said Public Works Director Betty Hager Francis. "I'm just glad it was not much worse."
Doretha Willis of Seat Pleasant said she was surprised how little damage Floyd left behind.
"I was worried for a while," said Willis, 67. "It was intense. But I obeyed what they said and didn't go out."
The storm toppled hundreds of trees and forced officials to close some 20 roads yesterday and early this morning in Montgomery County. All schools were expected to open Monday.
"Right now we're in pretty good shape," said John Thompson, chief of the Division of Highway Services. "For us, this was really something just as bad as a big thunderstorm. Nothing more than that."
All major roads in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties were open and several lesser routes that were closed by flooding had been cleared by midday yesterday. Residents and officials in North Beach on the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County were mopping up after flooding that prompted an evacuation Thursday.
More than 8,500 residents of Southern Maryland remained without power, according to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative.
During the heavy rains that struck the area a week ago, the Howard County Fire and Rescue Department rescued 10 motorists stalled in flooded roadways. During Floyd, they weren't required to make even one such rescue.
"Floyd was much less than we thought. We expected much more flooding," said Capt. Michael Faith. "We geared up for a big catastrophe, and because of that it was a minor event for us."
Police and fire officials reported no lasting damage in Fairfax. Sixteen tree-trimming contractors were hired by the transportation department to help remove trees from roadways on Thursday, and they spent yesterday removing debris from their earlier emergency work.
Arlington and Alexandria
Trees suffered the most damage in Arlington, where crews worked through the day to clear about 130 fallen trees -- including 10 that were at least 100 years old. Alexandria got calls about only a handful of major trees blocking streets, and the flooding that was feared in Old Town never occurred.
Prince William County recorded about 17 downed trees or power lines but had cleared them by late Thursday. Five roads were also blocked by fallen trees on Thursday but were quickly reopened. Two homes sustained minor damage from trees.
Few signs of the storm remained in Loudoun. The heavy rains and blustery winds had downed some tree branches, but no serious incidents were reported, said Mary Maguire, spokeswoman for Loudoun County's Department of Fire and Rescue Services.
Extra crews from the D.C. Department of Public Works planned to work through the weekend to clean up branches from more than 200 fallen tree limbs that toppled on houses, cars and streets throughout the District.
Some of the worst damage in Southside Virginia was in Franklin, where the Blackwater River surged past its banks Thursday during the storm and was still rising yesterday. Up to 12 feet of water covered a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of downtown.
In Portsmouth, nearly 120,000 residents might remain without drinking water for more than a week. Overwhelming rainfall and tidal flooding caused a series of lakes to surge early Thursday morning, and a critical dam gave way, sending more than 300 million gallons of water over the spillway to inundate the Portsmouth pumping station.
Sgt. Elizabeth Romero, a spokeswoman for the Portsmouth Police Department, said the city has told residents not to use the water for anything but flushing toilets.
In Crisfield, Md., City Manager Fritz Jerald said water from the Chesapeake Bay started rising about 2 p.m. Thursday and "just kept on coming."
Just about every building on Main Street and in the downtown business district in this crab-producing town of 2,000 people suffered severe water damage.
"This is probably one of the highest tides we've ever had here, at least in my time," he said.
Fears that Floyd would chew up already battered beaches along the Maryland and Delaware coasts, however, proved to be unfounded. Officials in resort towns from Rehoboth Beach to Ocean City reported little erosion yesterday.
Contributing to this report were staff writers Amy Argetsinger, Ruben Castaneda, Maria Glod, Annie Gowen, Tom Jackman, Jennifer Lenhart, Eric Lipton, Raja Mishra, Ann O'Hanlon, Manuel Perez-Rivas, Linda Perlstein, Lisa Rein, Liz Seymour, Alan Sipress, Jackie Spinner, Craig Timberg, Craig Whitlock, Emily Wax and Josh White.