- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2003

City officials and business leaders say they are reducing the damage from Hurricane Isabel in the Washington area by quickly returning to business.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams also said federal disaster relief would cushion the blow to the region’s economy.

Mr. Williams discussed the economic effect of the storm with representatives of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

About 6,000 D.C. residents remained without power yesterday afternoon while cleanup and repairs continue after the storm.

The District’s costs of the storm included paying for emergency responses, damage to infrastructure and use of relief facilities for residents displaced by high winds, flooding or loss of power.

“That’s going to get covered through federal reimbursement,” said Tony Bullock, spokesman for the mayor. “That makes us whole for District government expenses.”

City officials said it is too early to give estimates on the cost of damage to the city.

Business owners also suffered losses, which they will be able to recover only if they have insurance. “There clearly is a loss of business that you’re not going to get back,” Mr. Bullock said.

He said power would be restored to homes and businesses more slowly in the next few days.

Rather than making a single repair that restores power to thousands of customers, the crews will spend more time tending to the last few outages affecting individual homes.

“As you get toward the end, it’s a lot more time-consuming,” Mr. Bullock said.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce said a survey it released this week shows the “resiliency” of the Washington area’s business community.

More than half of the 55 respondents to the survey in the District, Maryland and Virginia reported losing power, water or telephone service but more than half also reported being back in business by Monday.

“Of course a storm of this magnitude is going to take some kind of toll on our business community,” said Barbara Lang, Chamber president. “Many businesses were shut down on Thursday and Friday, and that is lost revenue.”

She called the return to normal business this week “pretty remarkable.”

In Alexandria, where storm damage was greatest in the Washington area, city officials are planning a “Goodbye Isabel Party” to celebrate a return to normal business.

The party is scheduled for Saturday evening with live music along the Alexandria waterfront, where the Potomac River rose 7 feet above flood levels last weekend.

City officials say it is too early to estimate damage costs.

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