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City Council Declares July 8 Rainstorm a Local Emergency

But it’s questionable whether Alexandrians will be able to get any federal aid for damage to their homes.  

Daingerfield Road and Prince Street on the morning of July 8, 2019. (Courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA – It came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden on the morning of July 8, up to five inches of rain was dumped on Alexandria in an hour! The Alexandria City Council unanimously declared the event a local emergency, and social media has been flooded with images and videos of the Port City’s historic streets awash. 

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson was at his day job at Amtrak when the storm occurred. He said that the city experienced an extreme rain event.

“Our Fire Department did an excellent job of rescuing residents who were stranded,” Wilson said. “We were lucky that no resident was seriously injured in the aftermath, and it was due to the great efforts of the Department.”

The Alexandria Fire Department received and responded to  12 water rescue calls – four in Fairfax County, three in Arlington, and five in Alexandria. Oddly, the rainstorm that snuck in during hours normally reserved for driving to work did not dramatically impact the waterfront or Four Mile Run, but it did flood storm drains.  

“Our firefighters and medics are trained to provide the best service no matter the circumstances,” said Acting Fire Chief Corey Smedley. “After receiving notification that the storm would be much worse than previously predicted, the Fire Department looked at our available resources and mobilized those assets in an effort to safely and efficiently help those who were stranded in flooded areas. Our emergency management personnel also worked with our local and regional partners in preparation to provide support to our first responders as needed. Emergency preparedness is a whole community initiative, so it takes the efforts of first responders, various city and regional agencies, and a resilient and prepared community to safely respond and recover from this type of incident.”

Hooray 4 Books! Was Closed For 9 Days

It took Ellen Klein and her staff nine days to reopen Hooray 4 Books! at 1555 King St. Each of its 3,800 square feet was under two inches of water, and the basement was also flooded. The storm also destroyed 338 books intended for the Campagna Center, but as soon as word got out that books had been lost the store received boxes upon boxes of donated kids’ books. 

“That’s what Alexandria is about,” Klein said. “The community more than replaced what was lost for the children’s summer reading.” 

Not Enough Storm Damage for Federal Aid? 

City Manager Mark Jinks reported that the damage around the city equated to about $3.4 million, but was not catastrophic enough to warrant federal or state aid. Jinks told council that 73 Alexandria homeowners reported minor damage, and 78 residents reported moderate damage to their homes. The basement of the City’s DASH facility was flooded, and eight elevators (which run $200,000 apiece) need to be replaced. Holmes Run Trail also sustained about $500,000 to $600,000 in damage. 

“What we saw in a one hour period was an astonishing amount of rain,” Jinks said.  

There is a chance for Alexandrians to get a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, since Arlington County qualified, and Alexandria qualifies out of default since it is a neighboring jurisdiction. Fairfax County also declared the storm a local emergency. 

Diane and William Cohen live on the fourth floor of an 8-unit condominium complex on Prince St., and their elevator doesn’t work. The parking garage in the building was also flooded, and water was well over the hoods of cars. 

“It impacts us. We live on the fourth floor and the elevator doesn’t work and my husband is recovering from heart surgery,” Diane Cohen said. “And another one of our neighbors is going to have heart surgery next week.” 

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