Deluge Washes Away Area's Drought

A powerful, slow-moving storm system soaked the D.C. area, May 12, 2008, toppling trees, submerging roads, shutting down schools and complicating commutes.
By David A. Fahrenthold and Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So much for that drought.

The Washington region appeared to have officially ended its 11-month spell of dry weather yesterday -- but residents and local officials soon found themselves facing the opposite problem. Instead of too little water, they had too much, as a soaking rainstorm flooded roads, battered boats and opened a sinkhole that swallowed back yards in Prince George's County.

About four inches of rain fell on most parts of the region, as the remnants of a furious Great Plains thunderstorm finally drifted toward the Atlantic coast.

There were no tornadoes, such as those that killed 22 people over the weekend as the system crossed Oklahoma, Missouri and Georgia. But there was a whopping amount of rain, more than seven inches in one part of Calvert County.

The storm left thousands without power, closed schools, and forced the shutdown of government buildings and courts in Prince George's.

Weather forecasters said the weather today would be clear with temperatures in the low 70s.

The good news hard to see in yesterday's mess was that the region's troubles with parched soil and thirsty trees finally seemed to be near an end.

"What drought?" said David Miskus, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center. He said the combined rainfall from this storm and another late last week meant that in the mid-Atlantic, the drought "is greatly improved, if not alleviated."

The region's problems with dry weather stretched back to June, as a pocket of heavy drought in the Southeast gradually extended north. By late July, part of the area had drought conditions classified as "severe."

Those conditions had begun to improve after rainstorms this spring, and by early April, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments had lifted its official drought watch.

Any lingering doubts were washed away this past week. First came a storm Thursday night and Friday morning that caused a tornado in Stafford County. Then this storm soaked the area again.

At Dulles International Airport, more than six inches of rain has fallen since May 6. That's enough, meteorologists said, to moisten soil, refill groundwater reserves and swell the Potomac River's flow to more than 10 times its median level for this time of year.

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