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Arrival Of Charley More Fizzle Than Drizzle

By Monte Reel and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 15, 2004; Page C01

Hurricane Charley, which produced devastation in Florida, prompted preparation and anticipation yesterday in Washington, but in much of the area it provided only modest amounts of precipitation.

By 10 p.m., a little less than a half-inch of rain had fallen at Reagan National Airport, no more was coming down and radar indicated that there was little, if any, in store.

Vacationers play in the surf in Virginia Beach as the downgraded Tropical Storm Charley passes through the region. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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Greater amounts of rain fell in southeastern Virginia and on Maryland's Eastern Shore as the rapidly weakening storm sped up the Atlantic coast. But winds were relatively light, and there were no reports of severe damage.

"Charley just kind of lost its punch," said Bob Spieldenner, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. "It just kind of fell apart as it came into the state. We were expecting tropical-strength wind, and we didn't get much of that."

On the Eastern Shore, rivers swelled and water pooled on roads. As of 9 p.m., however, no major flooding or damage had been reported.

"We've got rain but no wind," said Gary Powell, the shift supervisor in the Somerset County emergency services office. "Just like another summer storm."

In Worcester County, Teresa Owens, director of emergency services, said the storm turned out less severe than she expected. "But that's fine with me," she said.

In much of the Washington area, the effects of the storm appeared to be largely psychological and were experienced in advance of Charley's arrival.

As the hours passed yesterday under gray skies, homeowners stacked sandbags against basement doors, cleaned drains, built topsoil berms, patched roofs. They headed to hardware stores to get their hands on items that might be hard to find if the tropical storm warnings panned out: generators, water pumps, dehumidifiers and batteries.

"You have the forecast for rain here, and people hear all the stories about what's going on in Florida, and it's got everybody on edge," said John Weintraub, co-owner of Frager's Hardware on Capitol Hill, who saw a steady stream of customers stock up on supplies yesterday.

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