- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Residents and business owners close to the banks of the Potomac River are worried that another snowstorm forecast to hit the region by midweek could cause the flooding that didn't materialize this past weekend.
Raging floodwaters from Western Maryland and West Virginia were expected to rush into the Washington region Sunday and yesterday as nearly 2 inches or rain pounded the area. Big puddles were all that came with the flood fanfare.
But the National Weather Service is predicting another heavy snowstorm or a wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain for the Washington metropolitan area beginning Wednesday.
"The only thing we're saying now is there's a 30 percent chance of heavy snows starting on Wednesday, and that forecast will hold through Friday morning," said a National Weather Service official.
NWS would not estimate the amount of precipitation coming. Officials say it is too soon to tell how much or how long the storms will rest over the area, as the sytems are rapidly changing en route.
Area road crews, hoping to get some rest, may be back at it by midweek. That news was unwelcome to local politicians yesterday, as most jurisdictions have used up their snow-removal budgets.
"The last snowstorm nearly took us over the edge. We just hope our crews get at least a day or two of rest," said Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. "We do have skeleton crews out tonight for flooding and pothole repairs," Ms. Morris added.
She said Presidents Day weekend snows, which the region is just now getting under control, cost VDOT an estimated $30 million.
The Maryland State Highway Administration's crews, with 350 trucks and other equipment, will be working to remove snow on side streets that were missed this past week, said spokeswoman Kellie Boulware.
"The overtime costs really jumped up because it was a weekend, and a holiday weekend at that," Ms. Boulware said.
The District's massive snow-removal effort is winding down as public works and water and sewer workers return to their regular duties. D.C. Department of Public Works spokeswoman Mary Myers said Solid Waste Division crews are trying to pick up trash they couldn't haul away last week.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he continues to analyze the recent snow-removal efforts. Yesterday he told WTTG-TV (Channel 5) there were still some problems on city roads with snow, and crews are working to get those secondary streets clean "curb-to-curb."
There are some streets in the District, though, that are too narrow for snowplows to get through, and never get plowed.
Ms. Myers said the District will hold a snow meeting tomorrow and begin its conference calls with the Weather Service on Wednesday.
The snowmelt and heavy rains have forced the Potomac and its tributaries to swell well above their banks in Alexandria and other areas.
Residents there were not too worried about potential flooding, but sandbags adorned several doors of businesses in Old Town near the intersection of King and Union streets, where flooding usually begins.
"After the big threat [and] nothing happening over the weekend we're not worried," said Glynn Robbins, 31, who works at Timothy Williams Home Furnishings next to the Torpedo Factory on Union Street.
He said his store didn't flood in 1996 when Hurricane Fran blew through leaving three feet of water on the streets.
But Jessica Krueger, 58, who is part owner of the Virginia Company antiquities shop on King Street, said she is all too familiar with flooding.
"In 1996 we had a good 3 to 4 feet of water in the store," she said.
Mrs. Krueger said she and her husband will be ready for whatever comes this week, with sandbags already on hand to hold back rising waters.
Stephanie Heil and Elizabeth Mandros of Mystique Fine Jewlery Designs a store that faces the Potomac on Strand Street said they too will be ready.
"Everyone has either been given sandbags or is requesting them and if there is a flood we will have a flood sale," said Ms. Heil.
A memo was sent out by Alexandria Fire and Emergency Medical Services informing store owners what to expect and how to combat floodwaters.
A flash flood watch issued by the Weather Service for the lower Occoquan River including Prince William County, Manassas, Manassas Park and Fairfax County over the weekend has been lifted, but may be reinstated with the new storm on the way.
The weather also caused a fair share of roof cave-ins around the region.
The roof of a Toys R Us store in Lanham collapsed over the weekend, injuring nine persons in the biggest of several incidents resulting from the record-setting rainfall.
In Herndon, students at Floris Elementary School got another day off yesterday as heavy rains coupled with leftover snow caused the school's roof to partially collapse on Saturday. The damaged portion is located above the main office and auditorium.
Fairfax County officials had hoped to send the children to other schools today, but a spokesman said they were unable to complete plans.
A fallen roof at the administrative offices was blamed for the closing of two Anne Arundel County middle schools, which share a campus in Arnold. They are expected to remain closed until today.


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