By Mark Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Around 8:30 a.m. July 8 scores of people received the blaring alerts on cell phones throughout Prince George’s that there was a flash flood warning and that low lying areas were vulnerable. As rush hour reached its peak the heavens opened wreaking havoc throughout southern Maryland.
When Mother Nature made a wake-up call, areas such as Fort Washington and Oxon Hill were victimized by a massive deluge that left many areas crippled. Cars were submerged, traffic lights were inoperable and the full work days for many at the office turned into half days of telework after basements and lower floors of many homes succumbed to rising tides brought on by record setting rains that hit the area between 8:30 and 10:30 am.
The Fort Washington Oxon Hill area was hit by a slow moving storm event that dumped nearly four inches of rain within a two-hour span. Officially Reagan National Airport recorded 3.6 inches which was a record, but pales in comparison to the five to six inch totals seen in places just over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in northern Virginia.
While Rock Creek rose causing well publicized rescue efforts that were caught on video by news crews throughout the region, there similar incidents near National Harbor. Many cars found roads that were overwhelmed by the rain which led to hazardous conditions making it impossible.
On a traditionally dangerous stretch of road known for its propensity for speeding drivers, there were no accidents or fatalities on Rt. 210 (Indian Head Highway.) However, raging waters rose and vehicles couldn’t pass for approximately 90 minutes while residents and drivers waited for the water to recede. A portion of Livingston Road saw water rise to a level near the door handle on the entrance of a McDonald’s restaurant.
Several residential areas were hit with flooded basements off Brock Road. The topography of that neighborhood with its set of peaks and valleys and underscored how the County’s infrastructure hasn’t kept up with commercial and expanded residential development. Homes in the low-lying areas were hit hardest as water mains were overwhelmed causing quick moving but damaging floods that hit basements and single family dwellings.
The sounds of mostly retired residents who meticulously care for their lawns by mowing them daily were replaced by a similar sound of water vacs that were pushing water out of the lower levels of homes. Some owners faced more than 1.5 inches of standing water in basements after the aggressive storms created its brand of high tide in the morning.
However, there was a retail victory, as home improvement stores such as Lowe’s in Clinton and Home Depot in Oxon Hill, nearly sold out all inventory of water cleaning products. Water vacuums and portable pumps sold out like snowblowers prior to blizzards during winter months.
Officially there have been no estimates on the amount of damage this brief storm caused, but the amount of inconvenience figures to rise as the cleanup resumes.