- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003

Residents and business owners in the Washington area took to the streets yesterday, battling fallen trees, downed power lines and flooded roads in the wake of Hurricane Isabel.

Streets in historic Annapolis were under water, as were those in Old Town Alexandria, Fells Point in Baltimore and Belle View in Fairfax County.

More than 1 million residents in Fairfax County were under strict orders to boil their tap water — if they had any — after the county’s treatment facilities lost power early yesterday morning. As of last night, thousands were still without water.

President Bush declared a major disaster in Maryland yesterday, and in Virginia and North Carolina late Thursday, authorizing federal aid to all three states. Federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs and for low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Area government officials said the most significant damage in the District, Maryland and Virginia came from the thousands of trees that fell on roads, collapsed onto power lines, and most devastating, crashed into homes.

“We’re looking at 300 trees reported down in the city with more coming in as we speak, and 23 homes have been damaged from felled trees,” D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday at a news briefing.

A large number of the downed trees were reported in Wards 3 and 4 in the District.

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he saw a tree in the 3200 block of Arcadia Street NW that had fallen on four cars and taken down two transformers and a utility pole.

“This is the most damage I’ve seen by a storm in the city; we have four homes in the ward hit by trees,” Mr. Fenty said after touring neighborhoods.

Utility crews were trying to restore service to 627,000 customers in Maryland, including 30,000 in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Dominion Virginia Power reported more than 329,000 outages in Northern Virginia late yesterday.

Sixteen of the 47 fire stations in Prince George’s County were being kept in service with the help of generators. An emergency shelter in Bowie had to relocate twice when schools used for the purpose lost power.

The District had hundreds of volunteers and more than 300 road crews cleaning up streets and highways.

“We have more volunteers than we need, but we won’t turn away anyone who wants to help,” said acting City Administrator Herbert R. Tillery.

In Prince George’s County, the Department of Public Works and Transportation closed 22 roads and received more than 450 reports of downed trees and power lines in neighborhoods.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson said he was amazed by the level of cleanup work that had been done by early afternoon.

“You all have made Prince George’s County look good with your response to the weather emergency,” Mr. Johnson said, applauding road crews and volunteers at a news conference outside Landover Mall.

In Montgomery County, officials said it will take days until things get back to normal.

“There’s debris everywhere in Montgomery,” said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue. “There are quite a few hazards out on the roads due to downed trees — more than I can count right now — and live power lines, and about 500 traffic lights are out.”

Across the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Isabel damaged more than 60 homes, and county crews shut down 73 roads, said Officer Cheryl Farrell, a county police spokeswoman.

In Alexandria, officials got more than 100 calls of tree damage to houses and streets, said Amy Bertsch, a spokeswoman for Alexandria police. “We got a lot of calls for traffic lights out, trees down and power lines down,” she said.

Alexandria added 50 officers to answer telephone calls at the city’s call center during the peak of the storm, and the department doubled its staff at its 911 center.

Baltimore also was hit hard.

“We have crews responding to 703 different complaints about trees clearing through main corridors first,” Mayor Martin O’Malley said.

He said road crews were teaming up with Baltimore Gas & Electric repair crews to remove trees from power lines. An estimated 70,000 BGE customers were without power in the city as of 6 p.m. yesterday.

Like most city and county leaders, Mr. O’Malley said he hadn’t even begun to think about recovery costs.

“We had too many houses damaged to give you a number off the top of my head, and looking at it from the air at least 300 cars were totaled,” he said. “We’re still in the recovery phase.”

Ocean City escaped serious damage, said Clay Stamp, emergency services director.

He said there was moderate street flooding and some cosmetic damage to buildings during the height of the storm.

Damage assessments by area emergency management agencies are expected tomorrow at the earliest, said Peter LaPorte, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.

“The assessments determine the amount of money we will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for to cover repairs and preparation costs,” Mr. LaPorte said. “We’re not even close to a real number yet, but we’re counting every dime.”

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