Zero to Drenched in Two Days

Tow-service worker Cuong Nguyen directs Loung Thinh as he pulls an abandoned car out of the water on Woodburn Road in Annandale.
Tow-service worker Cuong Nguyen directs Loung Thinh as he pulls an abandoned car out of the water on Woodburn Road in Annandale. (By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post)
By Jacqueline L. Salmon and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 9, 2005

Heavy rainfall that has swept through the Washington area in the past two days has doused the September drought with an October deluge.

The rain -- the remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy that moved up the East Coast -- flooded roads and basements, triggered evacuations and washed out fall festivals. At the same time, it thrilled gardeners, who struggled to save parched landscaping through the driest September on record.

By 9 p.m., the two-day rainfall had dumped 7.34 inches at Reagan National Airport and 6.62 inches at Dulles International Airport, more than twice the average rainfall for the month of October, said Brian Guyer, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

The September dry spell -- less than one-tenth of an inch of rain fell -- has been "wiped out," Guyer said. "We're above normal again."

There is a 20 percent chance of showers today and a 30 percent chance tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service.

For some, the rain was an unwelcome diversion to weekend plans.

At Union Station in the District, customer service agent Yolanda Hochoa got an earful -- and some fists pounded on her counter -- from Amtrak travelers frustrated by delays of up to 2 1/2 hours after a tree just north of the station fell on train-signal wiring during yesterday morning's downpour.

"It was crazy," Hochoa said. "Everybody got so furious. But I guess I understand; some people had business to take care of."

At 2:15 p.m., a crowd of 250 passengers, many frowning and some pacing, were still waiting to leave on a train scheduled to leave at 1:25 p.m. for New York's Penn Station.

The Feaster family, however, was determinedly upbeat. Two sisters and a brother, along with their mother, were headed to a party to celebrate their youngest sister's 30th birthday. The group had planned to leave on a 12:25 p.m. train that was delayed indefinitely, then switched to the 1:25 p.m. train. But nearly an hour after its scheduled departure, that train hadn't pulled out.

"We've got our coffee, our family to talk to," said Shannon Feaster. "But the party starts at 8 p.m., so trust me, I'm going to be mad if we're not in the city by then."

Yesterday at National Airport, 3.65 inches of rain had fallen by 5:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, the total was 4.33 inches. Up to 10 inches fell in northern Maryland over the last two days.

Water spilled into about a dozen houses in the Prince George's County town of Edmonston, near the flood plain of the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River, said Mayor Adam Ortiz.

"I cried most of the day," said Mary Temarantz, 84, who said her basement on 49th Avenue held three feet of water. "It's a mess. Everything's a mess."

Ortiz said that like a previous flood, yesterday's stemmed from a failure at a county-operated pumping station. A county public works spokeswoman did not immediately return a call.

In Harford County, Md., about 30 people were evacuated from homes and others taken from cars stalled on roads swamped by as six feet of water, Darlington Fire Chief Jim Terrell told the Associated Press.

In the Washington area, there were flooded roads, traffic accidents, scattered power outages and cancellations of weekend events.

The Maryland Million at Laurel Park, the state's second-biggest horse racing day after the Preakness Stakes, was postponed. It was rescheduled for Saturday.

The triumphant finale of the Tour of Hope cross-country bicycle ride, led by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, also was washed out after rain flooded some of the roads on which the cyclists -- including 1,500 local riders -- were supposed to travel.

The event was to culminate in a festival on the Ellipse, which was canceled. But at the last minute, Armstrong thrilled fans by riding down Constitution Avenue NW with 24 Tour of Hope cyclists to mark the end of the nine-day relay, which raised more than $1.5 million for cancer research.

The deluge will save at least some dehydrated landscaping, said Stephen Cockerham, owner of Betty's Azalea Ranch in Fairfax.

It will save autumn leaf colors, he said. "They were just going to turn brown and die," Cockerham said. Now, he said, "we're going to have some pretty spectacular colors."

Staff writers John Scheinman, Martin Weil and Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company