This story was updated at 1:15 p.m., Feb. 3, 2013.
Anne Arundel County Police released the name of a homeless woman whose body was found floating in the Patuxent River following heavy flooding in Laurel last week.
The woman was identified as Anifa Kiwanuka, 26, of no fixed address, according to police.
Authorities said the official cause of death has not yet been determined.
Laurel spokesman Pete Piringer said Anne Arundel County police inspected a large area — outside city limits — where homeless people congregate on Laurel-Fort Meade Road and Race Track Road, to alert transients to significant flooding conditions.
Around 11:36 a.m. Thursday, police discovered Kiwanuka’s body floating in the Patuxent River. According to an Anne Arundel police department release, a witness on scene told the victim to leave the area because it was unsafe due to flooding.
“It’s a well-known area where folks congregate,” Piringer said. “There was knowledge of the area. Everybody knows they’re back there.”
Piringer said Anne Arundel police did make contact with homeless people in the area prior to flooding conditions worsening.
“Some evacuated others were rescued,” he said. “We believe this person may have drowned earlier, prior to the flood gates opening.”
Jim Neustadt, a Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission spokesman, said following Wednesday night’s thunderstorms that hit the region and caused flash flooding, WSSC opened the flood gates to nearby Brighton Dam and T. Howard Duckett Dam to prevent structural damage.
He said that caused an increase in flooding to Laurel, though he said they did not predict there being this much water.
“We will also do this on occasion after big rain storms,” he said. “But people around here don’t remember anything like this with this magnitude in 20 years.”
He said those dams are a water source for 600,000 residents around the area.
Jerry Irvine, a WSSC spokesman, said had they not opened the flood gates, flooding would increase at a higher rate and potentially cause more injuries, property loss and fatalities.
Irving said WSSC did not yet have enough information regarding the drowning to comment on the fatality.
“Pressure would have built up and when the water reaches a certain point it damages the infrastructure in the dam, which could result in an overall failure of dam, which could cause more flooding and more issues as well,” he said. “It is done to protect those dams. Those are critical to drinking water. It’s pretty important.”
In Prince George’s County, Upper Marlboro has been an area that has attracted vagrants, according to county fire/EMS officials.
In November, a house fire on a vacant property killed a homeless man who was believed to be sleeping in the already-shuttered and dilapidated property just outside the town limits.
During that incident, Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said since Upper Marlboro houses the county’s government agencies it attracts homeless persons.
The home that caught fire, in the 5100 block of Buck Lane, was a known location where several homeless persons had been staying, according to fire officials.
“County seats are sometimes where people gravitate,” he said in a November interview. “They may come here and feel they can get more attention to their cause.”