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Is the DC area prepared for a flood?

Is the DC area prepared for a flood? (Tom Roussey/ABC7)

Since it is not directly on the ocean, the DC area is unlikely to experience a storm even remotely similar to Hurricane Harvey.

But with the city’s location on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, it is still considered a high risk area for flooding. Some measures are already in place to try to ward off flooding, but more are likely on the way.

Spokesperson Sarah Gross with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells ABC7 a study launched in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 found the DC area to be one of nine places at high risk for flooding in an area stretching from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast. Baltimore is another.

To help protect some of the city’s most vulnerable areas, a levee was completed on 17th Street in 2014. It is now under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

“17th Street right through here is one of the lowest points in the city,” said NPS spokesperson Mike Litterst as he stood near the levee, which is located a few hundred feet south of Constitution Avenue.

Two stone walls sit on opposite sides of 17th. In a flood emergency, a temporary wall that connects them can be set up.

“We can within 24 hours…essentially put a wall across 17th Street,” Litterst said.

Along with an earthen berm that runs from roughly the Lincoln Memorial to the World War II Memorial, Litterst says the levee would protect large parts of downtown and Federal Triangle.

But although the area near the levee is one of the lowest spots in the city, it is not the only vulnerable area.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently launched a flood risk study involving 57 square miles of DC and suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.

Gross says the study will focus on protecting transportation, communication, and national monuments. She says it is expected to take two to three years to complete.

Gross says the Army Corps of Engineers is also working to protect military areas on the Anacostia River like the Navy Yard and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.

In addition, one of the most flood prone areas of the region is expected to get some relief. The city of Alexandria tells ABC7 as part of its waterfront redevelopment project, its shoreline is being raised between two and four feet.

The city says that is expected to eliminate all but the most serious floods that have become routine near where King Street dead ends at the Potomac River.

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