- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

1:18 p.m.

Montgomery County officials are still warning evacuated residents near Lake Needwood to stay away from their homes because of a damaged earthen dam on the lake’s southern shore.

In a statement this morning, county Homeland Security Director Gordon Aoyagi said the situation is “promising” because water release during the past 24 hours has relieved some pressure on the dam, and seepage from cracks in the barrier has not increased.

Nevertheless, officials are wary that severe weather conditions predicted for today could cause the situation to worsen.

“We do not consider the situation safe enough to allow our evacuated residents to return to their homes,” Mr. Aoyagi said. “We also want to urge our residents to listen to weather alerts this afternoon about predicted severe thunderstorms, hail and possible tornadoes.”

About 2,200 residents fled their homes overnight Tuesday after days of heavy rain raised the water level of Lake Needwood to 25 feet above normal.

Roughly 200 went to Wheaton High School, where a temporary Red Cross shelter has been established.

Another 200 went to a shelter at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, while about 20 evacuees with pets stayed at the Montgomery County fairgrounds in Gaithersburg.

County spokeswoman Bonnie Ayers said officials have since shut down the Walter Johnson shelter because of dwindling numbers, and about 100 persons stayed at the Wheaton shelter last night.

“Some people have found friends to stay with,” she said. “But it sounds like [some] wanted to return to their homes.”

Miss Ayers said police are still “advising,” but not forcing, residents to stay clear of the endangered neighborhoods.

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