Torrential storm causes damage Tuesday night

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Skies grew suddenly black, lightning ripped through the air and rain poured down in buckets Tuesday night as wet weather appeared again in Washington after days of absence.

"My dog's in hiding," a Capitol Hill resident wrote on the Capital Weather Gang blog, describing a "thunderous deluge" with lightning showing up in "blinding flashes."

Almost an inch of rain fell at Reagan National Airport in a single torrential hour. Between 7:52 p.m and 8:52 p.m. the airport measured .98 inches.

That stunning 60 minutes was enough to make Tuesday Washington's second rainiest day of 2010. An hour earlier, as the storms swept eastward, almost one-half inch of rain pelted Dulles International Airport.

As the storm arrived, fire broke out in a house on Arlington Ridge Road in Arlington, apparently the result of a lightning strike.

"We all assume it was hit by lightning," said a neighbor, Robert Trudel. "There was definitely a hole in the roof."Authorities were investigating whether lightning caused a blaze that heavily damaged an unoccupied 19th-century building at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington, said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer.

In Northeast Washington, Kelly Perl described the storm as "flash, boom!"

A former resident of the nation's midsection, she called it "Midwest grade." Having been in Washington for five years, she said the storm was "one of the strongest ever seen around here."

Well before sundown, as the storm swept across the city, skies became "almost pitch black," said Glover Park resident Jerry Floyd.

"It's very rare to see the sky get this dark this early in the evening this time of year," he said. It was, he said, as if an entire hour of twilight had vanished. The storm was highly audible. "This was boom, boom thunder," he said.

A 40 mph wind gust was measured at National Airport on what was the third day of heavy rain in the past four. On Saturday, the National Weather Service measured 1.17 inches at National, making it the year's rainiest day. Baltimore had .98 inches Monday.

On Arlington Ridge Road, Robert Trudel said, "it rained real hard" Tuesday night. And, he said, "we needed it." Through Saturday, only .02 inches of rain had been measured all month at National, and that fell late Friday.

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