Georgetown Waterfront Floods: Why Weren't Flood Walls Up?

9:19 PM, Apr 18, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --  Disaster repair crews worked through the night to pump water back into the Potomac River after flood walls at the Washington Harbor complex were not raised during high tide Monday morning. They allowed river water to flood upscale restaurants, shops, parking garages and the basement of some residences.

One section of the flood wall was not in its upright position, and it is through that position that water poured into the complex. Some utilities like gas and electricity are located in the basement of the flooding complex. Repair workers say they will be unable to assess the damage until water has been pumped out.

The complex was vacant Monday night after residents evacuated because electricity is unavailable.

Shortly after the water started spilling into the Georgetown waterfront Monday morning, employees at the Washington Harbor Complex started arriving for work. They say the first thing they noticed was a huge section of the flood walls were not in place.

An employee at a business located in the Washington Harbor Complex told 9NEWS NOW her reaction was, "Shock. I think it was more shock. Everyone we're just standing around going ... because usually they were always up."

By the time high tide hit at 8:30 a.m., the entire first floor was underwater and the complex was evacuated. Restaurants like Nick's Riverside Grill, Tony and Joe's, and Sequoia's were flooded with up to 12 feet of water.

"You see it come up in the buildings, and it's like wow," said the employee.

The big question now: why weren't the flood walls in place? DC Fire and EMS say it's the responsibility of the management company, MRP Realty, which took over the complex about a year ago.


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The bottom two levels of the underground parking garage were also underwater. At least two cars were flooded and about 20 others were towed out to safety.

DC Fire and EMS Spokesperson Pete Piringer said, "We were a bit surprised that the wall wasn't there..."

When asked if the situation was preventable, he replied, "In that sense, yes, it is probably preventable."

MRP Realty brought in a crew and finished installing the flood walls shortly after noon, but the damage had been done. Now business owners and employees are left fuming, wondering why it hadn't been done sooner, especially since a coastal flood advisory had been issued.

An employee said, "I just was really surprised. It was in the forecast."

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