- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

Residents and merchants in Old Town Alexandria began the familiar ritual of stacking sandbags around their properties yesterday to brace for expected flooding this weekend from the remnants of Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Charley.

“We have about seven sandbags in the front [of the store] and at the door in the alley,” said Miguel Fuentes, an employee at Raul’s T-shirt Shop in the 100 block of King Street.

The metropolitan region was largely spared from the remnants of Bonnie, which fizzled over the Florida Panhandle. However, area forecasters are expecting more severe conditions from Hurricane Charley — the Category 4 storm that yesterday afternoon hit Port Charlotte in southwest Florida with 145 mph winds.

As of last night, there were widespread reports of property damage in Florida, but no reported injuries. The only fatality reported during the storm so far was the result of a car crash in Sarasota County.

The storm was expected to slice across Florida last night before reaching the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the D.C. area through noon tomorrow. Two to four inches of rain and wind gusts of30 mph are expected.

Barbara Gordon, Alexandria’s public information officer, said yesterday the city learned much from last year’s Hurricane Isabel, which was a tropical storm when it reached the area but still left hundreds of thousands of District, Maryland and Virginia residents without power for several days. The storm caused more than $2 million in damage in Alexandria, city officials reported.

“After Isabel, we looked at what we did and didn’t do, and we looked at what we had done and could have done,” Miss Gordon said yesterday. “Now we’re ready to go.”

For example, the city now has more generators to power traffic lights and city buildings and more barricades to block flooded roads.

City officials called an emergency meeting yesterday morning and crews delivered sand and sandbags to flood-prone sections of King and Union streets and to the intersections of Pitt and Gibbon streets, and Commonwealth and Reed avenues.

Miss Gordon said post-Isabel discussions included talks about building a protective wall along the Potomac River, but an agreement was never reached.

Government agencies and transportation officials in the area have issued numerous advisories as a result of the back-to-back storms.

The Potomac Electric Power Co. advised residents to prepare for outages and warned that wind and rain could cause tree limbs to snap and fall on electrical lines.

Out-of-state crews will be called if needed to help make repairs.

Metro said its workers were inspecting drainage pumps and catch basins. Earlier this month, flooding from torrential rains knocked out a control room in Silver Spring.

Amtrak canceled three passenger trains yesterday that run through Virginia — the Silver Meteor and Silver Star that run between New York and Miami and the Auto Train that runs between Lorton and central Florida.

The D.C. Emergency Management Agency will deploy transportation crews to respond to street flooding, downed trees and limbs, traffic and street light outages and other problems.

The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department said extra members will be available in the event of swift-water rescues, building collapses, cave-ins or elevator rescues.

The Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation is checking buildings today for potential drainage problems. Crews are also cleaning catch basins and making sure pumping stations are working.

Regular Saturday crews will be on the road today during the storm and additional personnel will be deployed in the event of an emergency, Prince George’s officials said.

Water-rescue crews will be on standby in Montgomery County.

Officials canceled today’s scheduled outdoor “Wheaton Sizzles in the Summer” Concert featuring Deanna Bogart.

Andres Villena, the manager of the Fish Market Restaurant and neighboring Pop’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Alexandria, was getting sandbags and taking no chances yesterday.

“We had thousands upon thousands of dollars of damage” from Isabel,” he said. “We had to throw away all of the food. We had to get new equipment and floor tiles. The ice cream was basically mud. It wasn’t pretty.”

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