Capitol Heights businesses reeling after damage from water main break
Church, businesses, parked cars heavily damaged in Monday gush
The cruise ship that carried couple George and Marian Blair from Key West, Fla., to Baltimore had barely docked when they got the 7 a.m. phone call from Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission.
The Blairs, property managers and leasing agents for Capitol Heights' Central Hampton Business Park, got word of a water main break in the rear of their business park. Water gushing from the break destroyed four businesses.
WSSC officials needed the Blairs' pass code to enter a gate with heavy machinery to stop the gush. Meanwhile, the couple raced down the highway to see the destruction.
"I've never seen nothing like that," Marian Blair said. "The dry wall, the ceiling, all the insulation, all the support beams just completely blown away. The venetian blinds ... all the furniture [inside the businesses] was washed down the [Capital] Beltway."
The 54-inch water main broke about 3:50 a.m. in the 9200 block of East Hampton Drive, damaging four businesses in a total of eight units: Adams Technical Service, The American Postal Workers Union, Craig's Barbershop and Ecclesia Family Life and Worship Center.
Stephanie Stratford of Upper Marlboro is a pastor at the Ecclesia center and said she received a call from the Blairs at about 8:30 a.m. that there was a "disaster" and to come immediately.
She arrived around 10 a.m. to fractured blinds, pink insulation hanging from the ceilings and a sofa that somehow made its way from her office into the main sanctuary.
"All that I can say is I'm very excited that this did not happen on Sunday morning," Stratford said.
Stratford leases five of the eight units that were damaged. It costs about $2,500 a month to lease about 3,000 square feet of space for her church, which began at the site in the Central Hampton Business Park in September 2007.
"The church is a young church," Stratford said. "We are three years old. That's the first and only worship place that we had ever had."
The water gushed onto Interstate 495 and froze over, causing vehicle accidents and a need to shut down the I-495 inner loop near Ritchie Marlboro Road.
Jerry Johnson, WSSC's general manager, said Monday he did not have a cost estimate yet for building damage. Blair said a WSSC structural engineer is supposed to come examine the building but she did not know how soon. The building was constructed in 1984, Blair said.
There were also three parked cars damaged by the break.
Pressure from the break launched a green hatchback 12 feet into the air, and it landed on its roof in front of Stratford's church, Marian Blair said. She said Alonzo Snowden of Regeneration Development Group, a nonprofit security company that works for and is based in the business park, owned the vehicle. A number listed for Snowden was not in service.
Two remaining vehicles, a champagne-colored sedan and a green Ford pickup truck, lay inside of the hole created from the break. Potomac Engineers Inc. owns the green Ford truck, Blair said. A contact for Potomac, Satish Korpe, did not return calls by press time. Blair said the sedan was owned by Mekus Inc., an Upper Marlboro-based vending machine company. A number listed for Mekus was not in service.
"WSSC's Claims Department is working with the individuals and businesses whose property was affected by the break. We do not release information specific to individual claims," Lyn Riggins, a WSSC spokeswoman, wrote in a Tuesday e-mail to The Gazette as a response to whether WSSC will replace the vehicles.
Stratford said that on Sundays as many as 75 to 100 families attend services.
"We really, really count ourselves blessed that it happened when it did," she said.
Stratford said she has received several calls from people offering space for lease to share with their church but has not made a decision yet. She hopes to find something in the Capitol Heights area, a location she targeted for the types of services the church provides, such as Thanksgiving holiday baskets and Christmas gifts for area youth.
"We're just now looking for some place in the community that we can set up to worship in and continue to serve the community," Stratford said.