- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cleanup and overtime costs are mounting for local and federal agencies as the region recovers from flooding that resulted from this week’s record rainfall.

The Internal Revenue Service’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in Northwest suffered “tens of millions of dollars” of damage and will remained closed for at least a month, officials said yesterday.

More than 20 feet of water rose in the building’s subbasement, severely damaging electrical and maintenance systems, computer equipment, and vehicles.

In addition, the National Archives building was subjected to about $2 million in flood damage, facility manager Tim Edwards said, adding “there was no document damage.” The building, which is still being dried out, will remain closed this week, having lost its electrical system in the high water.

Two Smithsonian museums that have been closed because of flooding were to reopen today.

The Museum of Natural History and the Visitors Center, known as the Red Castle, will be open, spokesman Peter Golkin said. The two buildings have been closed since Monday because of flooding in the basement that damaged mechanical equipment.

None of the exhibits were damaged.

The Museum of American History will remain closed because the damage there is more severe.

Meanwhile around the Northeast yesterday, thousands of people returned to their homes in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as the Susquehanna River receded, but thousands of others in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were forced to evacuate as the Delaware River surpassed its flood stage.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said damage around Trenton resembled that of an April 2005 flood there that caused $30 million worth of destruction.

In Montgomery County, a few residents returned to their homes near Lake Needwood in Derwood, despite officials’ warnings that the man-made lake’s leaking earthen dam puts them in jeopardy. More than 2,200 people had been evacuated from the area late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

And officials in Cecil County, Md., yesterday ordered the evacuation of about 300 homes that stand in the path of the rising Susquehanna.

As many as 15 people in the Northeast died because of the flooding, including Thomas Plunkard, 16, and Michael White, 14, whose bodies were recovered yesterday near Little Pipe Creek near Keymar, Md. The teens had been missing since Tuesday.

Around the region, most agencies said it was too early to gauge total costs of the flood, but some said the unexpected expenses have put a strain on their budgets.

“We had a very lean budget to begin with,” said Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation.

“We’ve had about 150 staff members working 12-hour shifts, which is four hours of overtime,” she said, “and we’ve purchased 50 dehumidifiers for residents that needed them, costing between $130 and $200 apiece.”

Miss Hubbard said her agency will shoulder the extra costs alone, since the county did not declare a state of emergency.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has spent about $450,000 for extra personnel, with additional costs imminent for road repair in Dorchester County, officials said.

Though the storm system has moved out of the area, rain-soaked ground has accounted for hundreds of downed trees along roads and highways, keeping road crews busy, SHA spokesman David Buck said.

“It’s conceivable that we could be dealing with this for the next few days,” Mr. Buck said.

D.C. Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Jo’Ellen Countee said a total cost estimate of flood damage would not be available for a few weeks. But a preliminary assessment places the District below the base-line amount to qualify for federal assistance, she said.

The District Department of Transportation said it would have flood-cost assessment by early next week.

Yesterday, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials said they had spent $5.5 million this week in Northern Virginia to clear debris, repave roads and repair eroded ditches and storm-drain pipes.

VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall said the bulk of the $5.5 million was spent in Fairfax County, where the Huntington area was hit particularly hard by the floods.

Nearly 160 homes in that area have been declared uninhabitable or condemned after high water forced sewage into the residences.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency opted not to declare the neighborhood a disaster area, which means that no federal relief will be immediately available.

Fairfax County officials said the area is too small to be declared a federal disaster area. County spokeswoman Debra Bianchi declined to speculate on the ultimate cost of the flood-recovery efforts.

“It’s much to early to say,” Miss Bianchi said. “Cleanup efforts are still ongoing.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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