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Jeanne Gives Region a Going-Over

Storm Soaks Area, Knocking Out Power and Flooding Roads

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 29, 2004; Page B01

The remnants of Hurricane Jeanne punched through the region yesterday, wringing out a soaking rain that caused widespread flooding and road closures.

The storm caused one death in southwest Virginia, flooded roads and basements across the metropolitan area and made the evening rush a liquid mess. Thousands lost power. Many residents rode it out while monitoring the possibility of tornadoes, hail and the like.

Felix Oreallana wrestles with a broken umbrella as he crosses Interstate 395 at Seminary Road during yesterday's storm. (Jonathan Ernst For The Washington Post)

In the end, it just rained and rained and rained. As the night went on, most watches and warnings were called off in the immediate Washington area.

In hard-hit Loudoun County, though, residents struggled for much of the day with up to six inches of rain that caused flash floods and overflowed creeks. High waters forced the closure of Route 50 between Aldie and Middleburg, along with parts of Route 9. Authorities last night were monitoring more than 50 other county roads for possible closure, sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell said.

A car was reported stranded in high water in Anne Arundel County near Route 450 and Crownsville Road.

The storm also flooded roads in Frederick County, where officials closed about 45 streets, mostly in such low-lying trouble spots as Israel's Creek in Walkersville and Fishing Creek in Thurmont.

Officials also were investigating reports that a waterspout -- a small tornado that forms on water -- came briefly ashore near Solomons. A barn was blown down there and the visitors center was damaged. A report to the National Weather Service attributed the damage to a thunderstorm.

School officials in Loudoun said the situation was dire enough to make them plan to keep students in school if flooding halted their buses. In the end, bus drivers made it to the homes of all but 15 children from the Lovettsville area, whose parents picked them up at an elementary school.

"This is worse than what the last hurricane brought us," said Jill Putman, a veterinary assistant at Loudoun Veterinary Service on Main Street in Purcellville. She said a creek rose by about four feet and flooded some back rooms of the clinic. The rushing waters outside were dramatic enough for her to record on her brand-new video camera.

At one point, Dominion Virginia Power reported that 4,000 customers in the Leesburg area had lost power. At various times, Pepco said, 3,100 customers were without power in Prince George's, and 1,100 in Montgomery. By 9:30 p.m., the Prince George's figure was down to 1,000, but 1,300 people in the District were in the dark. The Montgomery figure was down to 360.

Jeanne also claimed one life. In rural Patrick County, Va., a woman who sought shelter in a storage shed from almost a foot of rain drowned when flood waters washed the shed and her mobile home 150 yards downstream, police said. Katherine L. Smith, 51, was checking on her cats when Sandy Creek quickly rose 13 feet and carried everything away.

The storm also was blamed for damage to power lines that curtailed service on the northern end of the Baltimore area light rail system.

Forecasters said that what is left of Jeanne -- now a tropical depression -- should be well off the coast of New Jersey by this morning.

But the danger is not necessarily over. Flood warnings were posted for the Rappahannock River at Remington, Goose Creek near Leesburg, the Monocacy at Frederick, the south branch of the Potomac near Springfield, Md., and the Potomac at Point of Rocks. Those waterways were not expected to crest until today, the National Weather Service said.

The storm's center followed Interstate 95, said meteorologist Roger Smith, but the greatest impact was to the west.

"There was a swath of much heavier precipitation from Loudoun, Fauquier and eastern Warren counties, that all experienced rains on the order of four to six inches, " he said.

By 8 p.m., the weather service said that 5.6 inches had been reported at Remington in Fauquier County, 2.9 inches in Annapolis, 2.73 inches in Bladensburg, 2.4 inches at Reagan National Airport and 4.09 inches in the Lake Roland/Towson area of Baltimore County.

"There were no reports of tornadoes or tornado signatures, so we've been very fortunate compared to Ivan," Smith said.

Staff writers Karin Brulliard, Arthur Santana, Clarence Williams, Martin Weil, Fredrick Kunkle and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company