- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

Nate Johnson sat alone yesterday at Wheaton High School, playing a game of solitaire and waiting for word that he and hundreds of other Montgomery County residents could return to their homes below the dam at the rain-swollen Lake Needwood.

“I’m resigned to being here because they said there’d be a big thunderstorm this evening and that may cause problems,” said Mr. Johnson, 58. “But I am getting very bored.”

More than 2,000 residents in neighborhoods south of the 60-foot-deep lake and connecting Rock Creek were evacuated after rain sent the water level 25 feet above normal.

Last night the evacuees were told they could go back home.

Bruce Romer, the county’s chief administrative officer, made the announcement at 10 p.m.

“Not only do we feel it’s safe, but so do all the experts” the county had consulted, Mr. Romer said. However, the county left fliers on the doors of all evacuated homes telling residents what they need to do and how they will be notified if the situation changes.

The water level “is going down at a pretty big clip, but it is a pretty big lake,” said Mary Bradford, director of parks for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which maintains the dam in the Derwood community near Rockville. A water release relieved some pressure on the earthen dam by draining the lake at a rate of 2 inches an hour.

Crews have covered the leaky area with gravel, sand and filter paper and yesterday continued to monitor the seepage.

Officials also were concerned about the situation becoming worse. The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the entire region until 11 last night.

Passing time by watching TV and sleeping on cots has begun to wear on some of the evacuees, including many still staying at a Red Cross shelter at Wheaton High School.

“I had a bad fall that morning before I came down here,” said Nona Slason, 77, who had been at the shelter since early Wednesday morning. “Everything that can hurt hurts.”

Red Cross spokesman R. Cameron Ballantyne said 96 of the about 400 residents who came to the shelter remained there yesterday.

Others had found places to stay with family and friends, he said.

Some of the evacuees temporarily returned home — many to the Rock Creek Terrace apartments on Veirs Mill Road — to shower and grab a change of clothes.

Others, such as Miss Slason, do not have transportation and couldn’t return. “I have a bird, and I know Sweetie needs water,” she said.

Rachel Stanley said she spends her time “sleeping on the creepy cots” and walking around.

Still, the Montgomery County residents are at least in a better position than homeowners in the Huntington area of Fairfax County, where more than 160 homes were declared uninhabitable or condemned after a creek overran its banks.

Yesterday, many of the residents spent yet another day cleaning out their mud-filled basements and contacting insurance companies.

“Right now, everything we do is out of our pocket, and who knows what we are going to get,” said Carole Bouraoui, 30, whose home on Fenwick Drive was damaged by the flooding.

Miss Bouraoui and her boyfriend, James Sneed, have not been to work this week and have been staying with Mr. Sneed’s family in Fort Washington.

The couple received $75 for food from the Red Cross and were considering applying for temporary housing offered by the city.

Mr. Sneed, 30, said they have paid $2,500 to have their basement cleaned. But their walls, furnace, washer and dryer still have to be replaced.

Most of the front doors along Fenwick Drive are tagged with yellow stickers, signifying that homeowners cannot stay overnight until the properties are properly cleaned.

“I’m tired, but OK,” said Kathy Prunty, 37, sitting on a chair in her front yard.

The insurance company told her to take pictures of the damage in her basement, on which she recently spent more than $7,000 to convert to an office.

“Insurance will not pay for the office,” said Mrs. Prunty who with her husband and 5-month-old daughter are staying with her parents in Arlington. “Now, it’s going to be one big empty room.”

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