BWI travelers arrive to find swamped cars

WASHINGTON — When the record-breaking rainstorm pounded the region on Tuesday, Upper Marlboro resident Tiffany Newsome was in Arkansas — entirely unaware of rising flood waters back home.

Before taking a flight out of Baltimore Washington International Airport, she had parked her 2013 Ford Focus in Lot A of long term parking. She had bought the car just one month earlier.

By Tuesday afternoon, her row — N2 — was among those under feet of water.

According to the airport’s estimate, about 100 vehicles were at least partially submerged in the historic flooding.

Some car owners still don’t know their cars have been damaged or even totaled.

My floors were so soaked that the carpet was floating.

— BWI traveler, Tiffany Newsome

Newsome didn’t learn about the storm until she returned from her six-day trip Tuesday night. And she quickly figured out there was trouble when she arrived at Lot A.

“My car was gone. So I was wandering around trying to find someone, and I bumped into a few tow truck drivers. And I said, ‘Do you know where these cars are’?” she says.

They pointed her to W3, a section with a higher elevation.

“We did have to move some of the affected vehicles,” says Whitney Kidd, an airport spokesperson. “They were moved to the same lot on higher ground.”

Communicating that message to already-distraught drivers presents a challenge.

The airport recommends going to a bus shelter and using the phone to dial the listed number. The cashiers at the exits can also provide directions to contacting Maryland Parking about a vehicle’s whereabouts.

With help, Newsome found her relocated car, but the news only got worse.

She opened to the door to find soaked seats, glitchy electronics and an engine that wouldn’t turn over.

“My floors were so soaked that the carpet was floating,” she says.

The flood waters had filled the cup holders and made it as high as the gear shift.

She needed a tow truck to get her car out of the lot, and Newsome fears her new car is totaled. And she still had to pay $56 in parking fees.

It costs $8 per day to park in the long term lot. And the airport doesn’t have a clear answer whether or not flooded car owners still need to pay for the parking.

Maryland Parking, the company which operates the lots, will deal with it on a “case by case basis,” according to the airport.

At any given time, about 6,000 vehicles are parked in the long term lots at BWI. With roughly 100 vehicles damaged in the flooding, Maryland Parking plans to assess them individually.

Maryland Parking will handle claims and questions about a vehicle’s location. Owners can all 410-859-9230.

Not since a 1933 hurricane has Baltimore recorded so much rain. The official measurement at the airport was 6.3 inches Tuesday, the equivalent of five feet of snow.

The National Weather Service says other areas of Anne Arundel County saw up to 10 inches of rain triggering flash flooding throughout the area.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the flood waters have receded from the parking lots at the airport.

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