- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

Cicadas harmless? Tell that to the Bethesda residents who lost water for about three hours Sunday after neighbor Linda Yangas, startled by a buzzing bug, drove her car into a water hydrant.

It was about 3 p.m. when Mrs. Yangas backed her car out of her steep uphill driveway and headed south in the 7900 block of Bellevue Drive.

A cicada flew in the window, hitting her face, and she instinctively began swatting at it.

“I took both hands off the steering wheel,” Mrs. Yangas said later, recounting how her car veered over the curb and into a fire hydrant in Edna and Bob Proestel’s flower-bedecked front yard.

“We heard it immediately,” Mrs. Proestel said.

“It sounded through the house,” said Mr. Proestel, a retired electrical engineer.

The water sprayed into the street from the hydrant’s 6-inch pipe, cutting off supply for residences served by that main.

Mrs. Yangas was not injured. Neighbors began calling 911 as the water washed away the soil around the hydrant — taking a couple of flowers from the Proestels’ yard with it.

“It’s very amazing,” said Lydia Thorndyke, Mrs. Yangas’ neighbor of 23 years.

Yesterday, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission crews scraped up the brown mud and water from Bellevue Street. Today, they will install a new fire hydrant, said WSSC spokesman Chuck Brown.

“It happens all the time,” said crewman Bobby Martin, 41, a WSSC employee for 22 years.

WSSC yesterday made a “very rough estimate” of $7,000 to repair the damage. “It’s going to require a lot of excavation, plus a new hydrant,” Mr. Brown said.

“We always ask the party responsible to pay the costs,” said Mr. Brown, suggesting Mrs. Yangas — not the cicada.

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