Flood Warnings Cancelled in Metro Area
Rain-Related Delays Continue on Road and Rail
By Fred Barbash and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 28, 2004; 4:35 PM
Homeward bound commuters confront a chance of more rain-related delays this afternoon after being battered last night and this morning by heavy downpours and transportation snarls on road and rail alike.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the National Weather Service said the area appears to be out of the eye of the storm as most of the precipitation moved further east. It cancelled a flash flood watch that had been in effect for the Baltimore area, Anne Arundel County, Prince George's County, Calvert County, Harford County, Charles County and St. Mary's County.
Nonetheless, the soggy conditions left from the earlier two days of storms had left a mark. Transportation officials were warning that some afternoon commutes, including those on the Metro Red Line, will still not have completely recovered by the afternoon rush hour from the troubles encountered earlier in the day.
Flooding at the Silver Spring station knocked out the automatic train control for the stretch of track between Glenmont and Silver Spring. That forced train operators to manually run the trains, which significantly reduces their speeds. Red Line trains were operating every 10 minutes between Glenmont and Fort Totten stations.
Metro workers spent the morning clearing water from the flooded areas at the Silver Spring station and have been repairing or replacing affected electronic equipment. But transit officials said riders should expect similar delays on that same stretch of track throughout the rest of the day, including this evening's rush.
Trains on the Manassas line of the Virginia Railway Express were also delayed this morning, running up to an hour late because of speed restrictions on the railroad, which ran along several creeks swollen with water, spokesman Mark Roeber said. One train, #334, had to be turned around at the Burke station and returned to Manassas, he said. A handful of passengers were on that train and were able to transfer to OmniLink buses for the remaining trip to Washington, he said.
Afternoon service on the VRE is expected to return to normal, he said.
The storms caused major delays on roads, some of which were impassable because of pavement buckling or high water or downed power lines or debris -- or all of the above.
Virginia transportation officials said that flooding on Interstate 66 began yesterday around 10 p.m. and by midday today the left hand lane on the westbound road near Route 7 was still closed due to high waters. Officials said highway crews are trying to pump the water off the roadway, but that they weren't sure whether it would be open in time for the evening rush.
The overnight deluge had caused extensive traffic backups across the region this morning as water washed away many roads and discarded debris on others -- a situation made worse by failures on Metro and other transit lines.
"At a time when roads don't work and then mass transit also doesn't work, there's not much left for commuters," said Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Anderson said the saving grace was that the storm came in the middle of the summer travel season when many workers are out of town. "Thank God it wasn't after Labor Day, then we would have been really up a creek."
During the night, trapped motorists were rescued from swirling floodwaters in several spots, houses were struck by lightning and many roads were closed as fierce thunderstorms pelted the Washington area.
The storm flooded basements, forced evacuation of apartments and disrupted airline schedules.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company