- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

The governors of Maryland and Virginia yesterday asked President Bush to declare parts of their states major disaster areas in the aftermath of a week of heavy rain and flooding that killed six persons and forced the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made the request for the hard-hit Maryland counties of Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Montgomery and Harford.

In a letter to the president, Mr. Ehrlich estimated state expenditures on the storm would be more than $10 million.

“Generally we’re talking about roads, infrastructure, railroads, crop damage, and a dam, is what it boils down to,” Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday. “But we got hit pretty hard in specific areas. We think we clearly qualify.”

In Montgomery County, areas such as Bethesda, Kensington and Norbeck received more than 11 inches of rain during the storms, caused by a tropical depression that hovered over the region from Sunday until Thursday.

Roughly 2,200 Montgomery County residents south of Lake Needwood, in the Derwood community, were evacuated starting late Tuesday when an earthen dam started leaking and threatened to breach. Officials allowed the residents to return Thursday night.

In Dorchester County, a nearly two-mile stretch of Route 16 that was flooded remains closed. State Highway Administration officials say extensive repairs to the road will be necessary. Much of the damage to the region occurred when five dams connected to one pond gave way, which officials described as a “domino effect.”

The request is a step toward receiving federal money to help pay for cleanup and loans for residents and businesses most affected by the storms.

Other counties may be added later, the letter stated.

Henry P. Fawell, Mr. Ehrlich’s press secretary, said the state received federal funding after Hurricane Isabel and that the governor is “cautiously optimistic” the request will be granted.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, said yesterday he is asking the president for help in 13 cities and counties hit hard by heavy rain, mudslides, tornadoes and flooding.

More than 1,600 homes in Virginia were damaged, and more than 170 of them have been declared temporarily or permanently uninhabitable, Mr. Kaine’s office said.

Administration officials also said $3.2 million in state and local government expenditures for response and recovery activities will be needed in addition to the federal aid that has been requested.

The storms also caused nearly $13 million in damage to government property, according to early assessments.

“State and local officials are continuing to work hard to help individuals, families, businesses and others recover from these storms,” Mr. Kaine said. “However, it is clear that, in some areas, the damage is very severe, and I am asking the president to declare a major disaster for the commonwealth.”

The Virginia governor is requesting various levels of assistance for the cities of Alexandria and Salem and the counties of Alleghany, Arlington, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Dickenson, Fairfax, Highland, King George, Montgomery and Rockbridge.

Fairfax County was hit the hardest, particularly the Huntington area where nearly 160 homes were declared uninhabitable or condemned after high water dumped sewage in them.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, anticipating that the District would need similar assistance, declared a citywide state of emergency earlier in the week but rescinded it Thursday as the weather improved.

D.C. Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Jo’Ellen Countee said total cost estimates would not be available for a few weeks, but a preliminary damage assessment showed that the District was below the threshold for federal assistance.

The storm system, which dropped record amounts of rain on some areas, was responsible for at least six deaths in the region and prompted large-scale evacuations throughout the Northeast.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as many as 200,000 people were briefly ordered to evacuate their homes as the Susquehanna River threatened to breach its 41-foot levees. Thousands more were ordered to evacuate in New Jersey and New York as the Delaware River swelled.

In Frederick County, Md., authorities found the bodies Thursday of Thomas Plunkard, 16, and Michael White, 14, in Little Pipe Creek near Route 194 in Keymar. The teens disappeared two days earlier after telling their parents that they were going to look at the rising creek.

On Tuesday, a couple attempting reach the house where they thought their 2-year-old daughter was staying died, along with a friend, after flash flooding washed them off a mountain highway in Western Maryland.

Jesse R. Haulsee, 24; his wife Angelia, 29; and a family friend identified as Eric C. Zepp, 19, all of Myersville, were killed on Maryland Route 19 along Middle Creek on Tuesday, Frederick County authorities said.

In Alleghany County, Va., a 100-person search team Wednesday found the body of Nikki Godbold, 8, who was swept away Tuesday in a flooded creek.

The girl was found about a mile from where she disappeared in Dunlap Creek.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

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