WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — District leaders faced several questions about Monday’s storm that overwhelmed Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast D.C., leading to the deaths of 10 dogs.
Christopher Rodriguez, director of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency reflected on the hot and severe weather the District experienced in the past couple weeks.
“What we saw the other day, we are experiencing the impacts of climate change,” Rodriguez said.
He said the District is now looking at the impacts of climate change since the flooding on Rhode Island Avenue.
Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was asked about the city’s response time and the concerns over the storm drains in the area.
“You can’t expect us to say more, we’re in the early stages of evaluating and analysis and support for the business so this won’t be a full explanation of what needs to happen,” Bowser said.” What I want to reiterate is that fire and EMS were on the scene almost immediately, because they were in the area.”
Though the issue goes beyond just the drains. A D.C. Water spokesperson John Lisle told DC News Now that the water did recede quickly, meaning the drains themselves were working. Though the area under the Metro overpass acts as a bowl and storm water flows into it from multiple directions.
Two inches of water fell in just 45 minutes creating a pool that was several feet deep on Rhode Island Avenue, trapping dozens of dogs inside District Dogs.
Jocelyn Lobos-Segura said she lost her dog Mona in the flash floods at District Dogs. She blames the owners of doggy daycare for not having a plan and D.C. Water for not having the Northeast Boundary Tunnel ready.
“It didn’t seem real. It felt like a nightmare,” she said “Of course, our dogs were in danger, but there were also lives there that were also placed in danger, and they failed us all.”
What happened is there was a sewage backup in the pipes.
The tunnel is being built right under Rhode Island Avenue. D.C. Water said the project has been underway for “five or six years” and it’s two years ahead of schedule. It is expected to open by the end of September.
“Our consent decree says it has to open by March 23 of 2025,” Lisle said. “But we accelerated the timeline for the tunnel because of the flooding and to help alleviate some of the issues [and] the impacts of the flooding.”
D.C. Water thought it might be able to open it in March, but Lisle said labor and supply chain issues pushed it back.
It will add 90 million gallons of storage designed for a 15-year storm.
Lisle said what residents saw Monday, however, was far beyond that.
“The sewer system could still back up the tunnel. Once it’s in operation [it] could still fill to capacity and if that happens, you’re still going to get some flooding,” Lisle said. “What we hope is that the flooding will not be as severe.”
D.C. Water and the District, two separate entities, are discussing what to do next.
“I don’t know that we know of any short sort of short-term measures that you could take that would mitigate what we saw on Monday night,” Lisle said. “Nobody wanted this to happen and nobody wants this to be repeated again. So hopefully we’ll be able to find some solutions.”