Arlington, VA

(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Over a thousand residents have reported damage to their homes and several tons of debris was collected after last week’s torrential rainstorm that caused widespread flooding in Arlington.

The deadline for residents to report initial damages to their homes was Friday, July 12. Today (Monday) officials told ARLnow that a total of 1,029 people filed post-storm damage claims.

The damage reports describe a range of problem from minor (clogged drains) to major (completely flooded basements), said Hannah Winant, a spokeswoman with Arlington’s Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (PSCEM) department.

Winant said the reports will help Arlington County’s recovery and flood mitigation efforts.

“First, reports help us determine what neighborhoods have been impacted by weather. For example, we may learn if someone needs a safety inspection after electricity loss,” she said. “Second, damage reports help us better convey our needs to the state when requesting potential resources to assist with recovery efforts. The more clearly we can articulate how many people have been impacted… the better we can advocate for our community and potentially collaborate with state and federal partners to help.”

As for the destruction of county property like pedestrian bridges and public parks, Winant says Arlington is current estimating about $4.1 million in damages — up from initial estimates last week of $3.5 million.

PSCEM’s director clarified during Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting that these reports are used for the county’s state and federal aid applications, and that affected residents will have another change to summit damage claims later.

Crews hauled away 60 tons of debris — from rolled up carpets to soggy books to water-damaged furniture — during special collections from Wednesday to Saturday, according to Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. That doesn’t include the ruined parts of people’s homes that dotted curbs around Arlington, waiting to be collected on regular trash pick-up days.

O’Brien said that county crews are scheduled to continue helping residents affected by the floods clear debris this week. The department previously apologized for a contractor who cited some flood-stricken residents “for improper trash preparation.”

Many homes, shops, restaurants, and pieces of public infrastructure were damaged by last Monday’s unusually strong storm — leading County Manager Mark Schwartz to declare a state of emergency in a bid for state or federal aid two days later.

“Our community experienced a rain event on Monday the likes of which no one who lives in Arlington, or who has lived in Arlington, has ever seen,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey at the Board’s weekend meeting, during which members unanimously voted to finalize the declaration. “The violent storm that turned the daytime sky as dark as night in a matter in minutes.”

PSCEM Director Aaron Miller told the Board that the county met the $3 million minimum damage threshold needed to qualify for state aid, and that the Small Business Administration (SBA) is sending inspectors to Arlington this week to verify the damage reports. The SBA could offer grants or low-interest loans for residents to rebuild.

Miller said additional aid hinges on a tangle of bureaucratic red tape among FEMA and larger emergency declarations that can only happen at the federal level when certain damage thresholds are met.

Dorsey added that he hoped that Virginia or the federal government will be able to give “some sort of help” but that the majority of costs are likely to fall on homeowners and business owners.

Several members of the public urged the Board to re-examine its storm water management system in hard-hit areas. Board Member Erik Gutshall proposed that the county start thinking about flood-ready construction for more resilient buildings and infrastructure.

Dorsey praised county staff for their work over the past week but noted that, “we do have to up our game” in face of future potential impacts from climate change. 

“It is quite frankly a blessed miracle that no one was killed or even seriously injured with the events of this past Monday and for that we are profoundly grateful,” he said.

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