Drenching Ride, Dramatic Rescue

SOURCE: National Weather Service | GRAPHIC: The Washington Post - May 27, 2009
By Allison Klein and Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

By the time D.C. rescue workers arrived early yesterday morning, they found three motorists on Rhode Island Avenue NE soaked to the bone, perched atop a Jersey barrier, watching their cars get almost swallowed by four feet of water.

"They just hit this wall of water," said Kevin Sloan, battalion chief for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, a supervisor at the scene where the stranded drivers were rescued in a motorized rubber boat.

Downpours touched off similar rush-hour rescues yesterday, with at least seven motorists pulled to safety from their cars or helped through deep standing water. Others saw their commutes slowed or altered by fender-benders or roads closed for high water. More than 11,000 people were left without power, and countless basements and garages were flooded.

Although a flood watch remains in effect across the Washington region through this morning, the worst of the storms is probably over. But don't put away the rain boots yet. The rest of the workweek will be wet and sticky, with unpredictable pop-up showers, said Jason Samenow, chief meteorologist with the Capital Weather Gang.

"Rainfall in the next several days will be more sporadic," he said. Lows will be in the 60s; highs will be in the 80s.

But there might be good news on the horizon. Samenow predicts a weekend with low humidity and temperatures in the 70s. "It should be one of the nicest weekends we've had in a while," he said.

Well, hopefully.

"I say that with medium confidence," he added.

On the scale of storms and flooding, he called yesterday's rain "low to moderate," saying most of the region got between one and four inches of rain. Wind gusts were up to 22 mph, toppling trees and power lines.

But in areas such as the District's Rhode Island Avenue near the CSX railroad tracks, where storm drains were blocked with trash, water quickly rose four or five feet high. And in the 5 a.m. darkness, it was almost impossible to tell how deep it was.

"These folks, I'm sure, didn't see it coming," said Sloan, the D.C. battalion chief. They were treated for hypothermia but were not seriously injured, he said.

Thirty minutes earlier, in Fairfax County, a woman driving her car in the 10400 block of Hunter Station Road got stuck when she tried to drive through standing water, and her car began filling with water. Rescue workers with ropes around their waists pulled her to safety, said Dan Schmidt, spokesman for the Fairfax fire department.

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