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River overflows banks at Washington Harbour

Gate not raised in time to stop flood

A U.S. Park Police officer keeps watch as the rising water of the Potomac River floods the Georgetown waterfront Monday morning. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)A U.S. Park Police officer keeps watch as the rising water of the Potomac River floods the Georgetown waterfront Monday morning. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
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One of the flood gates designed to protect the Georgetown waterfront from overflows of the Potomac River was raised too late to prevent the flooding of restaurants and parking garages Monday morning.

Water swamped the popular dining area at Washington Harbour, reaching as much as 10 to 12 feet in some places, D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said.

The river water began overflowing the plaza early Monday morning while a coastal flood warning was in effect. Mr. Piringer said the fire department was notified at about 7 a.m. and by the time emergency workers arrived people were being evacuated as a precaution.

Popular restaurants Sequoia, Farmers and Fishers, Tony & Joe's Seafood Place, Nick's Riverside Grille and Cabanas at 3000 and 3050 K Street Northwest were evacuated — along with residents of nearly 40 residential units on upper floors.

Water flooded the fountain in the center of the plaza, the lower walkway and the lower-level buildings before workers got the missing flood gate in place shortly after noon, Mr. Piringer said. He said the higher water levels — due to recent rains and high tide — would have been easily contained if the gate had been placed in time.

"Had the wall been up, it would have prevented a flood," Mr. Piringer said.

Arlington resident Doug Gustafson, who most mornings rows on the Potomac, said he watched the water stream into the buildings early Monday.

"By the time they got the gates up, the water in the river was the same level as the water in the restaurants," said Mr. Gustafson, adding that he had seen two gates up Sunday morning, but the middle gate hadn't been placed.

It was not known Monday why the gate had not been raised.

MRP Real Estate Services Inc., the property manager for Washington Harbour, is responsible for placing the flood gates. The company did not return calls seeking comment, but it released a statement saying it was working to limit damage.

"We have taken precautions to protect the residents, tenants and visitors to Washington Harbour, including evacuating the commercial tenants and are working expeditiously to mitigate further damage," the statement said.

The water also flooded parking garages on two lower levels of the north side of the buildings. The bottom level was flooded floor to ceiling, while the second level was filled with several feet of water, Mr. Piringer said.

Paul Ayoub, owner of a company that does maintenance for building residents, said he spent the morning removing cars from the garages. Although three tow trucks were brought in to help, they had to leave some cars behind, he said.

"They were yanking cars out," Mr. Ayoub said. "We couldn't get them out fast enough."

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