- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

The rain kept falling and falling yesterday, and the deluge took down with it scores of D.C.-area trees — and power lines.

Steady downpours — the kind that have invariably tormented the northern East Coast in recent weeks — pummeled the area again yesterday afternoon.

Early yesterday, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the District, Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria.

The warning came a day after rain and wind temporarily interrupted the Fourth of July festivities on the Mall and uprooted hundreds of trees in the D.C. area and knocked out power to thousands of homes. The storm became so severe that authorities briefly evacuated the Mall, some four hours before the fireworks display. The rain stopped several hours before the fireworks began.

Officials in Prince George’s County requested six more crews to help clear roads and sidewalks of trees and debris.

The Hyattsville area was particularly hard hit by the Fourth of July storm, and workers were still clearing debris yesterday afternoon.

“We lost hundreds of trees, mature trees, but at this point I couldn’t even begin to give you an estimate” of the damage, said Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation.

The Belcrest Plaza Apartments, on Toledo Terrace in Hyattsville, suffered the wrath of Tuesday’s storm. Although the storm lasted about 20 minutes, it destroyed windows, flooded apartments, toppled trees, flung off rooftops and insulation, and frightened residents.

“I was here when it started. I heard the rain coming. I went to the door. You ever see the ‘Wizard of Oz?’ It was like that,” said Lula Simon, who lives in the building that was damaged by the storm. Her apartment was not damaged.

Trees fell on three homes in Fairfax County Tuesday night, and 20 small fires due to downed power lines or lightning were reported, said Lt. Raul Castillo, a spokesman for the county fire department.

Wind and rain damage kept repair crews on the job all day yesterday.

Jose Salvador, 42, a foreman of a three-man crew for Asplundh Tree Expert Co. of Beltsville, began work at 8 p.m. Tuesday and was still working at noon yesterday. His crew chopped up nearly a dozen trees, including a maple tree that fell across Ninth Street Southeast, several blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

“It’ll take us about an hour” to finish removing the maple, Mr. Salvador said.

In Montgomery County, Lake Needwood Dam — which was declared unsafe after heavy rains last week — did not pose further danger to nearby residents yesterday, despite this week’s storms.

“We estimate that the lake will drop to normal levels within two days barring significant rainfall,” said Mary Bradford, director of parks for the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning.

Tuesday’s storm left thousands without power.

Dominion Virginia Power estimated a total of 65,000 homes in Northern Virginia had lost power at the peak of the storm. Potomac Electric Power Co. reported nearly 25,500 homes in Prince George’s County were without power at the worst of the storm, while Montgomery County had about 16,000 and the District had up to 2,500.

D.C. officials also said yesterday that the emergency evacuation test conducted by the District Department of Transportation after the fireworks Tuesday appeared to be a success.

DDOT spokesman Erik Linden said the department would provide further information once it analyzes the data collected during the test.

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