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Fierce Storms Cause Heavy Flooding, Outages

Despite the persistent rains, the 2006 Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle went on as planned yesterday on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Ninth and 14th Streets. Above, members of the Pig 100 team, who came from all over the East Coast to compete.
Despite the persistent rains, the 2006 Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle went on as planned yesterday on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Ninth and 14th Streets. Above, members of the Pig 100 team, who came from all over the East Coast to compete. (By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)

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By Martin Weil and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, June 26, 2006

As lightning flashed and thunder pealed, torrents of rain deluged much of the Washington area last night, turning roads into rapids, stranding motorists in perilous currents and plunging more than 30,000 homes into darkness.

As the electrical storms of a long and rain-soaked weekend reached a crescendo last night, at least one house fire was touched off by lightning, other lightning strikes were reported and the number of customers who lost power at some point in the past three days rose to about 100,000.

As midnight approached, water shut down much of Metro's rail system, traffic trying to reach the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was at a standstill and Reagan National Airport staff members handed out blankets to the stranded.

With rain falling on waterlogged ground at a rate of two inches an hour in some spots -- matching totals for a month or more -- rescuers pulled shaken motorists from rising water on numerous roadways from Maryland to Virginia.

Moreover, forecasters said they expected the area to remain in the grip of the same atmospheric conditions, making more rain and thunder possible through midweek.

No serious injuries were reported yesterday, but one driver said that aid had arrived just as water reached the window of her stalled car on a bridge over Great Seneca Creek in upper Montgomery County.

Patti Damiano told WTTG-TV (Channel 5) a powerful current thrust her car against a guardrail.

"Thank God they got me out," she said.

A witness described knee-deep water in the Chevy Chase Village area off Wisconsin Avenue in Montgomery County. In the District, parts of Constitution and Independence avenues were closed near the Mall.

In Vienna, a drainage ditch overflowed, sending water swirling up to nearby houses, resident Marjorie Knowles said. Fast-rising waters overwhelmed drainage systems elsewhere in Fairfax County, leading police to close streets in the Reston, McLean, Chantilly and Centreville areas. In Prince William County, authorities closed 11 roads, most of them in the west.

By 10 p.m., Wheaton, in Montgomery County, had received six inches of rain in the previous 24 hours. In Reston, the National Weather Service received a report of 6.29 inches falling between 10:05 p.m. Saturday and 10:05 p.m. last night.

Much of the rain came in a few explosive minutes toward the end of those 24-hour periods. At National Airport, three inches of rain fell between 8 and 11 p.m. That is .8 inches more than fell in the month of May.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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