- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Silvia Marchante yesterday led the way through her still-soaked kitchen to the basement of her Huntington home in Fairfax County, where the Washington area’s recent rains have wreaked havoc on her family’s life.

“Everything is completely destroyed,” said Miss Marchante, 35. “We’re going to move. … I have three kids, and I can’t stay like this.”

Nearly 160 homes in the Huntington area have been deemed uninhabitable or condemned after torrential downpours that dropped more than 12 inches of rain in the D.C. area and caused a nearby creek in Huntington to overrun its banks and flood the homes.

Despite several brief respites, the rainy weather showed no signs of letting up yesterday. The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for the region through this morning, with as much as 8 inches of rain expected.

As Huntington residents returned to their neighborhood along Arlington Terrace yesterday to assess the damage and see what could be saved, they waded their way into basements turned baths and along streets still soaked with sewage.

Some checked off what was lost to the floods like a long, grim grocery list.

“Everything in the basement is gone — computer, toys,” said Cleo White, 45, who escaped her home in the 2200 block of Arlington Terrace once the water reached her first floor Sunday night. “All of it is gone.”

At Miss Marchante’s home, among the luxuries lost was a brand new chess set that her 10-year-old son, Bryan, was supposed to use in a tournament today.

“Am I going tomorrow, Mommy?” Bryan asked hopefully.

“I don’t know,” his mother replied quietly.

As the residents struggled to salvage what they could, they braced for more downpours. They also wondered how they could rebuild and who would help.

“Homeowners [insurance] won’t cover it, and we were told not to get flood insurance because if it didn’t hit the main level, it wouldn’t cover it,” said Mark Watson, 38, who helped his brother, Cory, clean out his damaged home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has refused to declare the neighborhood a disaster area, meaning that federal funding isn’t coming any time soon. County officials said the area is too small to be declared a federal disaster area.

County officials are hoping to help through grants, low-cost loans or leftover Hurricane Katrina funds. But no plan is in place.

“Do we need to be on top of our roofs for it to be a disaster?” asked Mrs. White. “They should help us. We’re paying our taxes.”

At a meeting held yesterday afternoon at Edison High School, which has been turned into a temporary Red Cross shelter for flood victims, county Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland, Mount Vernon Democrat, said officials are working to provide food, housing and help with repairs for the Huntington area.

At a second meeting at Edison last night, county officials updated about 100 residents on the weather situation and asked people to stay out of their homes for at least another night.

About five in attendance said they would spend the night in their homes anyway.

Mary Stevens, the deputy director for the Department of Housing and Community, said the county is working to get federal requirements waived so they can help more people find housing.

“But to do that we need the supervisors to declare a state of emergency,” she said.

The audience applauded when Mr. Hyland quickly said, “That will be done.”

County and state crews also were helping to clean the neighborhood’s streets and pump out water from flood-ravaged homes.

“The bottom line is it’s going to be done,” Mr. Hyland said. “Take that to the bank.”

The county also is working to determine what caused the flood, which is the worst water damage the neighborhood has ever seen, residents said.

Mr. Hyland has commissioned the Army Corps of Engineers and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project officials to determine whether bridge construction or a lodged barge used by the project contributed to the flooding. The neighborhood is a few miles from the bridge.

“I can’t say the project caused the water backup in the community,” Mr. Hyland said. “But the people in the community didn’t have this problem before.”

Still, the day-to-day lives of Huntington residents have been changed for who knows how long.

“I don’t want to move from Huntington, my kids grew up there,” said Martha Aramayo, who owns two homes in the Arlington Terrace neighborhood and has lived there since 1970. “We want to clean up, we want to move back into our houses.”

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