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Trees downed by hurricane force roads to close

Vehicle crashes, high water reported

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2012

A handful of roads were closed due to high water or downed trees Monday afternoon as Hurricane Sandy moved into the D.C. area, though the storm was expected to wreak far more havoc on the region into Tuesday.

Call volumes for emergency services around the area were at or below average levels as people appeared to heed officials warnings to stay off the roads, officials said.

"Certainly, the fact that everyone is staying home from work and school has something to do with that," said Prince George's County Fire and EMS spokesman Mark Brady.

Calls for vehicle crashes appeared to make up the most of the emergency calls that rescue personnel were responding to early Monday, Mr. Brady said.

Officials on Monday evening ordered residents who live on Fenwick Drive and Arlington Terrace in the flood-prone Huntington neighborhood of Fairfax County to evacuate their homes and move their vehicles to higher ground because of rising water Monday evening.

The increasing winds brought down several live wires in the District early Monday evening. One landed on the porch of a home in the 1600 block of Fort Davis Street in Southeast, but officials were able to contain it quickly. However, flames engulfed a parked car in Barry Farm after a live wire fell underneath it.

Montgomery County police fielded calls for high water in several areas typically prone to flooding, but a spokeswoman said the call volume was still about average.

"We're encouraging everybody to stay off the roadway," spokeswoman Officer Rebecca Innocenti said.

Roads reported closed in Montgomery County on Monday afternoon included Little Falls Parkway between River Road and Massachusetts Avenue, Sligo Creek Parkway between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, and Beach Drive between Carroll and Wayne avenues.

In Fairfax County, high water also closed five intersections Monday afternoon, including Old Courthouse Road and Besley Road in Tysons Corner; and Burke Lake Road and Kilkenny Lane in Fairfax Station; Prosperity Avenue and Hillside Place in Annandale; and Woodburn Road at both Robey Avenue and Spicewood Drive.

A road collapse also closed a section of road at 1951 Kidwell Drive in Dunn Loring, just off the Capital Beltway and Leesburg Pike.

As early as 10 a.m., Alexandria police officers were posting wooden barriers where standing water was beginning to pool a block from the Potomac River. Many sidewalks were covered in leaves blown from trees by the steady wind gusting down the cobblestone streets.

As he fought to control his umbrella, 71-year-old Guy Guthridge stood on a bobbing wooden dock along Old Town, surveying his 40-foot trawler, Bright Pleiades, moored nearby.

The Alexandria resident said normally the boat only requires eight lines to keep it secure when it is docked, but he added another six lines to ensure it wasn't damaged during the storm.

"I tanked it up with water, and the boat has a generator," Mr. Guthridge said. "After the storm if we lose power, perhaps we'll take up residence here."

At the Christmas Attic along Union Street in Old Town — one block up from the river — co-owner Cheri Hennessy was beginning to clear the store's bottom floor for inevitable flooding.

The Fairfax resident said, while she doesn't have to worry too much about flooding, the store is in a perfect spot where rising river water meets the overflow from street drains and gutters.

"We had 4 feet of water from [Hurricane] Isabel," Ms. Hennessy said. "Hopefully I'm overreacting, but we'll clear everything out of the front of the store and depending on what happens, work on the back inventory of the store."

Law enforcement advised people to stay off the roads throughout the day, noting that road hazards will only become more difficult to see at nightfall.

"As darkness falls and the winds increase, downed trees, power lines, and debris will become hidden highway hazards that drivers will encounter unexpectedly," Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said in a statement. "Darkness will also hide standing water that could also disable your vehicle."

Heavy flooding was predicted in the District's Rock Creek Park, where West Beach Drive was already reported closed Monday morning.

As the winds picked up Monday afternoon, several reports of downed trees were made around the area. During previous storms, such as the June derecho, thousands of felled trees caused major problems around the area, taking down power lines and leaving swaths of the region without electricity for days. Nearly 30 deaths nationwide were attributed to the storm, including that of a 90-year-old woman in Virginia who died when a tree fell through her roof and a tree-trimmer working in Garrett County, Md., who fell to his death trying to remove debris. A D.C. woman was paralyzed after a tree landed on her while she was riding her motorcycle during the storm.

Trees were reportedly down and blocking roads in the District in the 2600 block of Porter Street Northwest and the 500 block of 14th Street Southeast. Another tree fell on top of a parked car in the 1500 block of W Street Northwest.

Emergency responders were standing by in the District, waiting for an expected onslaught of activity as the storm worsens.

"We are fully staffed and have a contingency," D.C. Fire and EMS Department spokesman Battalion Chief Brian Lee said. "All of our special equipment is manned, to include various fireboats and water-pumping devices."

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