- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2003

Hurricane Isabel submerged hundreds of coastal properties throughout the region with its torrential rains and storm surge that raised tides more than 10 feet higher than normal in some places.

The flooding — which struck low-lying areas in Alexandria and Annapolis, as well as Anne Arundel County and Baltimore — is expected to repeat itself at high tide over the next few days as run-off from the mountains in central Maryland moves downstream.

“We are looking at the crest of the Potomac River Sunday or possibly as late as Monday,” said Peter LaPorte, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.

Flooding along the Anacostia, Patuxent and Potomac rivers prompted limited evacuations yesterday in Laurel and Alexandria, and forced the evacuation of U.S. Park Police offices in the District.

“I was here for Hurricane Fran [in 1996]. It was nothing like this,” said Fran Crookston, a bartender at the Fish Market Restaurant in Alexandria’s Old Town.

At one point early yesterday, 4 feet of water spilled into the restaurant, ruining food and furnishings.

Alexandria officials, however, had been preparing for more than what actually occurred, having distributed 11,000 sandbags instead of the 800 to 1,000 usually offered.

“We were expecting flooding citywide, but the rain never materialized to any great extent,” said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.

“Even if we had a 100,00 sandbags, folks will still say it was not enough,” Mr. Euille said. “It is not a city policy or requirement to do the sandbags. It is just a courtesy. We don’t want folks to get a false sense of security. [You] should protect the safety of yourself, your home and your business.”

High water around the region forced many businesses to close.

“I am not very happy. This is the third time in 23 years,” said Donna Windsor, owner of Windsor of Old Town, a salon and day spa in Alexandria. “I have never seen it like this, I did not expect this, not 4 feet [of water].”

David Hammond, a manager of Union Street Public House, which got more than a foot of water, said he was more concerned about natural gas service.

“We did not have any flood damage and none of the food was contaminated,” he said. “The restaurant is ready to open, minus the gas.”

Tim Sargeant, a spokesman for Washington Gas, said it is standard operating procedure to turn gas off during floods. He said floodwaters would have to recede completely for the gas to be turned on again because the company will need to check gas lines to ensure that customers’ pilot lights are on and their appliances are in working order.

He estimated about 1,000 customers were without gas, adding that it would be Monday before most will have service restored.

In Maryland, television showed aerial footage of widespread flooding in Anne Arundel County, especially in Shadyside south of Annapolis, where only the rooftops of two-story homes were visible above the water. In Baltimore, particularly around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, residents were forced to use rafts and canoes to move around their streets yesterday morning.

“Sandbagging the Chesapeake Bay was not an option,” said Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, explaining why the city distributed only 5,000 sandbags before the storm. “Even if you could, the water still would have backed up storm drains.

“I am very proud of our fire department — they were able to rescue everyone who needed to be rescued — and all of the agencies, and I am very proud of the people of Fells Point,” he said.

In Virginia’s tidewater city of Franklin, the Blackwater River was expected to flood next week. The last time that happened, in the wake of Hurricane Floyd, the city’s downtown business district was almost wiped out.

The small Chesapeake Bay tributary that normally flows at a lazy pace through the heart of Franklin is predicted to crest at 16 feet next week, said Michael Cline, director of the state Department of Emergency Management.

That’s 10 feet below the all-time mark caused by Floyd’s rains in 1999, but still enough to damage the community still struggling with the effects of the storm four years ago.

Virginia’s deadliest hurricane came ashore more than 1,000 miles away — onto the Mississippi Gulf Coast — in 1969. But its remnants dumped 27 inches on Virginia’s Blue Ridge, causing floods and mudslides that killed 153 persons.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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