- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Mayor Anthony A. Williams is poised to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to grant disaster relief to area families and businesses devastated by rainstorms, which hammered the region over the weekend, causing power outages, flash flooding, downed trees and mudslides.

In the District, 1,500 homes remained without power yesterday, according to Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) and more than 700 residences were damaged by major flooding for the first time since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in office.

"According to my research, the last time the city had flooding of this magnitude was in 1944, and what is so strange is that most of the damage occurred away from the swamp basin by Rock Creek and the Potomac River, branching out into the hills of upper Northwest," said Steve Charvat, disaster recovery manager for the District.

The D.C. emergency management office has spent the last two days assessing the damage caused by the heavy rains and has tallied more than 700 homes so far, with hundreds more expected to report in over the next few days. The agency already has drafted a disaster declaration for the mayor to sign and pass on to FEMA's eastern regional headquarters in Philadelphia.

Today, a FEMA damage-assessment team will be in town to draft its own report for consideration of aid, said Mr. Charvat.

"We will be taking them around town, showing them some of the residences most affected and giving them our figures, we think we have a strong case," Mr. Charvat said.

Extensive water damage has been reported in neighborhoods throughout Northwest, including in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, where a number of people were forced out of their homes and numerous businesses remain closed due to lack of power.

"We had 12 to 14 inches of sewer water come in through the toilet and in through the back bathroom drain," said Barbara Rasnake, owner of Treasures, a gift shop on 17th Street NW.

Treasures has been closed since the rains began Friday evening, and the store is still without power.

Because there is no power, Mrs. Rasnake can't even figure out how much money she is losing for every day the store is closed, nor can she make damage estimates. She is waiting for her insurance company to come in today and give her an estimate of the damage.

Andy Abrams, 34, who owns an apartment building at 1727 R St. NW and who called the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority for assistance, said that all four apartments in his building were destroyed by flooding.

"The city is trying to claim that it is not a sewage issue, but a natural disaster, and they are absolving themselves from all responsibility," Mr. Abrams said.

"I'm hoping the building residents will take action against the city."

But Mr. Charvat said that, in fact, this is a natural disaster, and "unfortunately the city does not have a rainy day fund for flooding and most residents don't have flood insurance because this never happens here."

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority was swamped all day yesterday with calls about flooding damage, and for the most part, the agency was helping as best it could.

"We use three private companies to help effect cleanup, and our people in the field have a long list of individuals they are taking care of but they have been stretched to the max," said WASA spokesman Barrington Salmon.

Mr. Salmon explained that the good thing was that most of the water had receded, and WASA was cleaning storm drains to guard against further flooding in case more rains come.

"What our crews did most of the day was file investigative reports of flooding damage and direct calls to D.C. emergency management," Mr. Salmon said.

Pepco spokeswoman Makini Street reported that 2,000 people were still without power in the company's service areas as late as 5 p.m. yesterday. As many as 1,500 people were without power in the District, 300 in Montgomery County and 200 in Prince George's County all storm-related. Virginia Dominion Power had no storm-related outages at the same time yesterday.

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