- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

Mark Wilson has been flooded with work this week.

Mr. Wilson is vice president of operations for Capital City Restorations, a Rockville company that cleans homes and businesses after fires, floods and other disasters.

Since last Friday, the business has worked overtime helping victims of flooding in the District repair their property. It's practically a round-the-clock job: Mr. Wilson figures he has slept no more than 12 hours in the past few days.

President Bush has declared the city a disaster area, which allows federal agencies to grant flood victims money for emergency home repairs.

Capital City has received as many as 100 calls a day since a series of storms dumped as much as 8 inches of rain in Washington over the weekend. The company has had to turn down some jobs because of its heavy workload, Mr. Wilson says.

"The first call came in Friday night at 9. The phones haven't stopped ringing since," he says.

Capital City usually has between five and seven jobs a day. This week, it has had between 10 and 20 jobs a day. To handle the extra work, the company has added eight temporary workers to its regular 18-member crew.

On Wednesday, Mr. Wilson spent about two hours supervising a cleanup at a home in Palisades, a tony neighborhood in upper Northwest. A laundry room and a basement-level apartment in the home flooded, leaving the rooms awash in mud.

Mr. Wilson arrives with a four-man crew at about 12:30 p.m. He talks with the homeowner to explain what his crew will do, and then the men get to work.

The crew places a big wet-dry vacuum outside the laundry room door. The machine, which its manufacturer has named the "Ninja," sucks the water off the floor and pumps it down a drainpipe on a nearby patio.

When the water is removed, the crew shifts the mud-caked washing machine and dryer from one side of the laundry room to the other and clears out debris that has drifted beneath the machines during the flooding.

"Everything gets moved. Everything has to be cleaned," Mr. Wilson says.

Next, the crew members cut away the soaked carpeting in the basement apartment. In the bedroom, one worker gets down on his hands and knees with a heavy razor and slices away the part of the carpet that does not sit under the bed. Then the worker moves the bed to the other side of the room and pulls away the carpet beneath it.

The workers roll up the carpet and carry it to the company's truck, which sits on a street lined with BMWs and other luxury cars.

Capital City does not do reconstruction work, like some other restoration companies. Instead, Capital City strives to restore and repair as much of the damaged property without replacing it, Mr. Wilson says.

"Unlike other restoration companies, we don't have a motivation to tear things out," he says.

But sometimes, reconstruction is unavoidable.

Mr. Wilson stands on the exposed floorboard in the bedroom. The water has softened the wood; it appears to bow beneath the weight of his body.

"This is probably going to have to be replaced. We'll try to save the walls, though," he says.

Mr. Wilson says this repair job could cost anywhere between "a couple hundred dollars and a couple thousand." He says he won't know for sure until he crunches the numbers on his office computer.

Homeowners often have to pay out of their own pockets for repair jobs like these because their insurance policies don't cover flood damage, Mr. Wilson says.

Capital City gets many of its customers from insurance company referrals. A lot of its work from last weekend's flooding has come from referrals from the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, he says.

Mr. Wilson, 25, came to work for Capital City when he graduated from high school seven years ago. He says the 17-year-old company has many competitors, but is well-respected in the Washington area. Capital City's business cards read, "We listen. We get results."

Restoration work is tough, but it pays well, Mr. Wilson says. Most workers can earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, he says.

When Mr. Wilson isn't giving instructions to his crew inside the house, he and another Capital City manager sit in the back of the company's truck. The men talk on cellular telephones with employees at other jobs in the city.

By the end of the job, most of the ruined carpeting and debris sit in black plastic trash bags in the back of the truck. Mr. Wilson says the crew will take the bags to the dump.

The crew leaves a dehumidifier in the room to dry out the walls and the flooring. They will pick up the machine on the first of several return trips to the house over the next few days, Mr. Wilson says.

"With a job like this, you don't just come once. It takes two weeks at least to get everything back in order," he says.

Mr. Wilson gets ready to depart the Palisades house around 2:30 p.m., about two hours after his arrival. He will head to another flooded basement at a house on Q Street NW.

Mr. Wilson whose day began when he arrived at the office around 7:30 a.m. was to squeeze in a few more jobs before this day was done, more than 12 hours after it started.

The work is taking its toll on his crew, he says.

"They've been working hard. I need to give them a break," Mr. Wilson says.

He says he feels bad for his customers, many of whom watched helplessly as the flood destroyed their property.

"People are devastated. You have to handle them with care… . We let them know when we're done, everything will be like it was before, if not better," Mr. Wilson says.

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