- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2011

Washington-area officials began assessing damage Friday from torrential rains that a day earlier flooded roadways and neighborhoods in the region, killing at least three people.

Remnants from Tropical Storm Lee pelted the Northeast on Thursday, forcing hundreds of road closures and evacuations of more than 100,000 people in communities from Virginia to New York.

Torrential downpours and flooding in Virginia, Maryland and the District forced closures on the Capital Beltway, trapped drivers and their vehicles in high waters and drove some residents from their homes.

One of the region’s hardest-hit areas was Fairfax County, where some residents remained in shelters Thursday while others returned home in still-soggy conditions to help neighbors and pull their own belongings from flooded basements.

“This is the second time in five years that this has happened,” said Geoff Livingston, who lives in the Huntington area of Arlington, where residents were urged to evacuate Thursday night.

Mr. Livingston stayed in a hotel and returned home Friday to find about 4 feet of water in his basement.

“I think we got about 18 inches up the side of the house, and it got into the basement,” he said, adding that many neighbors are frustrated by a lack of response from officials. “We were like, ‘Not again.’”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday declared a state of emergency, as emergency personnel looked at damage in neighborhoods and some roads remained blocked by water.

The region has been under heavy rain since Monday and is expected to receive more rain into early next week. Cumulative totals during the period could reach as much as 10 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

City of Alexandria spokeswoman Jennifer Harris said flood waters have mostly receded in the city, and that after a very busy night emergency crews spent much of Friday clearing debris and retrieving vehicles that were swept off roads.

A shelter was also set up at Woodbridge High School in Alexandria for displaced residents.

The floods had forced officials to stretches of the Capital Beltway in Virginia, over Cameron Run near Huntington and at the Mixing Bowl.

At least three people in Fairfax County died Thursday night when they were swept away by flood waters.

Officials said Jake Donaldson, 12, was playing with friends in his backyard in the 9700 block of Marcliff Court around 6 p.m. when flash flood waters swept him into a creek behind his home. Fire and police rescue personnel found him dead about two hours later in Piney Branch Creek at Lawyers Road, a short distance away.

A second person, 67-year-old Arsalan Hakiri drown when his car was swept away by flood waters.

Around 7 p.m., rescue personnel were called to the area near Beech Mill Road at Club View Drive by a woman whose car had been swept off the road. Rescue workers were able to save the woman, but police officials said Mr. Hakiri may have drown as he tried to get out of his Toyota Yaris and was swept further downstream.

Police could not confirm Friday where Mr. Hakiri lived.

Fairfax County Police on Friday identified a third victim from Thursday night’s floods. Galo Sebastian Salvador Vinueza, 25, of Lorton died after he abandoned his car and tried to cross a flooded bridge on foot, police said.

Over the course of the evening into early Friday morning, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department performed more than 100 water rescues, said spokesman Dan Schmidt.

“I can’t recall that many rescues in that short a time recently,” he said. “It’s either a record or near a record.”

In Maryland, another man also drowned.

Anne Arundel County police said Daniel Lambert, 49, of Pasadena, Md., died in flood waters on Wednesday night.

Prince George’s County officials on Thursday closed the town of Upper Marlboro — which serves as the county seat and is home to many government buidings — after high water swamped roads and flooded the county administration building with several feet of water from a nearby pond. The building and the county courthouse, also in Upper Marlboro, were closed Friday.

The county had no flood-related injuries, said Fire and EMS spokesman Mark Brady.

“It’s remarkable,” he said. “You can see how easily and quickly something like those fatalities [elsewhere] could occur.”

Upper Marlboro resident Don Morris said he was stuck at home Thursday as flood waters in his neighborhood rose about 6 feet above a nearby river. He said his house sits on a hill and thus narrowly escaped flooding, with flood waters stopping about 15 feet from the home.

“It was like a great big pond out there. Like a lake,” Mr. Morris said, adding that the water had since mostly receded. “Everywhere I needed to go, I would have to go through a flooded area.”

Mr. Brady said Friday afternoon that county emergency crews had rescued 80 to 100 people from flooded homes and vehicles throughout the county, and also assisted in Virginia Thursday night.

He said officials have yet to make any damage estimates and will continue cleaning up as waters recede throughout the weekend.

Andrea Noble contributed to this report

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