June 26, 2006

Mid-Atlantic Hit with Flooding; More Rain Forecast

By Todd Eastham

WASHINGTON -- Waves of heavy showers and thunderstorms drenched Washington and the surrounding mid-Atlantic on Sunday, triggering flash flooding that swelled streams over their banks and closed roads around the region.

More rain showers, some heavy, were predicted throughout the region but showers and thunderstorms were expected to begin tapering off gradually toward evening on Monday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

A flood warning was in effect for the entire mid-Atlantic region including the greater Washington metropolitan area, the NWS said on its web site. A flash flood warning was in effect for parts of western Maryland, West Virginia and the extreme northwestern parts of Virginia, the weather service said.

"Washington up through Baltimore has received between five and seven inches of rain ... and most of it was in about a six-hour period," said NWS meteorologist Andy Woodcock.

"In many, many counties, rescues ... cars that got stuck in water, many road closures. It's been a very bad day, he said.

Flights into and out of mid-Atlantic airports were delayed as much as two hours at the height of the storm late on Sunday and early on Monday, said Rob Yingling of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Early Monday, "some flights are on time and others are delayed" depending on destinations, Yingling said.

As of 6 a.m., delays of 15 minutes of less were reported for flights into and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration web site.

Mike Orenstein of the federal Office of Personnel Management said federal offices would open on time on Monday but the OPM had instituted an unscheduled leave policy,

The heavy rainfall in a such a short time-frame was unusual for Washington, destroying a single-day record for June 25 that goes back to 1870, Woodcock said.

Police blocked off traffic on major thoroughfares throughout the region as heavy rains caused flooding of underpasses, streams and low-lying streets, including a stretch of Constitution Avenue, a major Washington thoroughfare, and Massachusetts Avenue in suburban Maryland.

In Germantown, Maryland, off-duty firefighters jumped into action to rescue a woman trapped in a car that had been caught by water from a swollen creek, local Fox TV News reported.

"My car was stuck against the guardrail and the water started coming up from under the car. It was up to the windows, So I was flipping out," Patti Damiano told Fox after she was plucked from the car. "Thank God they came and got me out."

Local news reports in Washington reported that dozens of homes throughout the region had been evacuated, and others damaged by falling trees, but no casualties had been reported as of 5 a.m. EDT.

Some 14,000 Dominion power customers in Virginia were without electricity while some 9,200 PEPCO customers in Maryland and the District of Columbia had lost power, WUSA (CBS) television news reported.

The concluding round of the Booz Allen Classic golf tournament in Potomac, Maryland, was suspended because of lightning after teeing off six hours behind schedule because of drenching rain. Play was scheduled to resume early on Monday.

The National Weather Service forecast for the area did not look good. "I think we're going to have rain for the next couple of days," Woodcock said. "We have the potential for more problems, especially on Tuesday."