Germantown flash flood proved deadly as well as damaging

Update: 10:30 a.m. Saturday

A 27-year-old woman died Thursday after calling her father – a city police officer – and 911 to report she was trapped inside her car because of flash-flood waters near the Waterview Recreation Center in East Germantown.

The woman, whose name is not being released by police, made those calls from E. Haines and Musgrave streets around 2:30 a.m. When her father didn’t hear back from her, he reported her missing at 10:35 p.m. Her Chrysler Pacifica had already been taken to a South 52nd Street lot by Top of the Line Towing, at the father’s request.

An hour later, police detectives investigating the missing persons report discovered her body in the back seat of the vehicle. The Medical Examiner’s Office is currently conducting an autopsy to determine cause of death, police said.

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Here’s our earlier story on the flood

The intersection of Belfield Avenue and East Haines Street looked more like a battlefield Thursday than a residential swatch of Germantown.

Mud slicks, building debris and upturned asphalt smothered the street after torrential rain flooded the area overnight. On East Haines, the muddy waters carved out a gaping hole in the side of a small church.

Nearly everyone in the immediate area was reeling in the aftermath of a storm where several feet of water quickly seeped into homes, churches and businesses. The intersection has flooded before, many said, but never this badly.

“This is a catastrophe,” said Michael Marino, a landlord who owns a property on the corner of Haines and Belfield.

Marino said his tenant called at 3 a.m. Thursday to tell him that water was flowing into his home through the front door. After assessing the damage, Marino said it’ll take thousands of dollars to salvage the place.

In a white lawn chair just a few doors down sat April Withers. The six-year resident said the floodwaters forced her from her home around 4 a.m Thursday and that she hadn’t moved far from her post since.

“I have no where else to go right now,” said a visibly shaken Withers around 6 p.m. She said she’ll likely stay the night at a friend’s house nearby.

Pastor Todd Dunbar, who heads Praise, Power and Deliverance Church, was left looking for a place to house his congregation after more than six feet of water rushed through the building.

Dunbar said the inside of the church had been recently renovated. He estimated the floodwaters washed away more than $60,000 worth of upgrades.

Still, the pastor tried to keep things in perspective.

“The church is not built on a building. We are the church,” said Dunbar as city workers pumped water from the church’s basement and sanctuary.

Tom Green, owner of Tranzilli’s Water Ice Company, had a harder time taking something positive from the water-soaked situation.

The business has been on Belfield Avenue since the late 1960s and Green has been around for a number of floods. This latest storm, though, was by far the worst, he said.

Green said the floodwater damage has prematurely ended the businesses’ annual water ice season.

“I’ll be out of business,” said Green outside of the shop, where mud and squirts of red water ice mixed together on the sidewalk.

Like many neighbors, Green blames the city most for the catastrophe. For years, he said, the neighborhood has complained about flooding at the intersection to no avail. Most agree faulty sewer pipes are the culprit.

Marino’s lack of confidence in the city has him feeling uneasy about renovating his Haines Street property.

“If I knew that I could repair the property for $35,000 or $40,000 and have a viable rental property that would be fine. The problem is if I do it, what happens the next storm, the next [Hurricane] Irene?” said Marino.

Dunbar is similarly concerned about plunging money back into a property that may be damaged by floodwaters down the line.

“We’re actually thinking of moving out of this location because the water is so bad. If nothing’s going to be done we can’t stay here,” said Dunbar.

A call left with a Streets Department spokesman was not immediately returned.

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