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Just as I was about to call Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie to ask about preparations in flood-prone Bloomingdale for Hurricane Sandy, his office beat me to the punch with a press release.
“We’re taking this storm very seriously in my office,” stated McDuffie, who has led storm response efforts in Ward 5 on four separate occasions since taking office five months ago. “I’ve called on the Mayor’s office, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (“HSEMA”), the District Department of Transportation (“DDOT”), the Department of Public Works (“DPW”), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, and DC Water to make the necessary preparations for this weekend’s storm and to communicate their preparedness plan to residents as soon as possible.”
McDuffie spoke with the EOM about the need for sandbag distribution and traffic control in anticipation of another round of severe flooding in the eastern portion of Ward 5. McDuffie has also urged that the agencies make a concerted effort to remove the leaves from the curbs, gutters, streets and sidewalks to avoid the possibility of clogging the already inadequate sewer line infrastructure across the Ward and in flood prone areas. “I have been in contact with DC Water officials about cleaning catch-basins and making other preparations for several inches of storm water in Ward 5. I have also been in touch with Pepco officials to ensure that power line maintenance is occurring now to reduce instances of power outages next week. I’ve been given a commitment from Pepco that mutual assistance crews will be on hand to support restoration efforts, should Ward 5 homes and businesses lose power.”
But that’s fairly vague on what the city’s actually done in response to McDuffie’s requests, so I gave his chief of staff, Corey Griffin, a call.
“We were given an update this morning,” Griffin says. “It was reported that they had been cleaning the catch basins since Wednesday. The problem that we see is that the leaves have collected in the gutters and on the street, so we’re also concerned now that those could be a problem.”
Griffin says McDuffie’s office has also requested to put out street sweepers, and that more will be known after a conference call with the relevant agencies at 1 p.m.
There’s the potential for major backlash—-political and otherwise—-if Bloomingdale residents are once again hit with major flooding.
“I would imagine that they’re going to be incredibly irate,” says Griffin. “This has been a problem. Four floods in six weeks. Although there hasn’t been a flood in 30 days or so, there’s constant anxiety among the residents there.”
But Griffin says Bloomingdale has two advantages this time around, relative to the derecho and the other storms this summer. First, since Sandy is a hurricane, it’s been tracked for several days now, giving the city and the neighborhood much more time to prepare. And second, residents are now better aware of what they need to do to protect their homes and property.
Pepco has activated its emergency teams in anticipation of the hurricane, and Griffin says DC Water and the Department of Public Works have ratcheted up their storm basin cleaning schedule.
Still, Griffin thinks the city could be doing more to help. “We understand that it’s not enough,” he says. “The city needs to do more to help.”
Illustration via National Hurricane Center