Heavy rains flood Washington area

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011; 1:19 AM

Heavy rain and some high winds swept through the Washington region Thursday, flooding waterways, low-lying areas and roads, but the area was spared widespread, lasting damage, officials said.

About 7 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a 30-minute tornado warning for areas that included parts of Loudoun, Fairfax and Montgomery counties. But no tornado sightings were reported, and the storm system headed north, losing - at least temporarily - some strength along the way.

In the Richmond area, nearly 5,000 customers were left without electricity, and power poles snapped and trees fell in Spotsylvania County. Fewer outages were reported locally, but there were about 900 in Montgomery County and 400 in the District as of about 11 p.m. In the Centerville area of Fairfax County, high winds reportedly knocked down at least a dozen trees along Route 28.

The rain was sporadic, with totals of 1 to 3 inches by 9 p.m. The heaviest rainfall was recorded near Baltimore.

Earlier Thursday, water coursed through parts of Old Town Alexandria, and officials worried about the tide rising on the Potomac River just after midnight Friday morning.

"There's a lot of flood reports. I wouldn't say we dodged a bullet," said Jim Lee, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "The Potomac River is going to be at flood stage the entire weekend. We're going to be dealing with high water."

In the District, authorities said they raised the flood wall at Georgetown Harbor late Thursday because they expected several feet of surge with the rising tide around midnight. About the same time, water and debris blocked lanes of MacArthur Boulevard and of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW near the Mall.

The rain also flooded many creeks and branches across the region, including Rock Creek, and created pools in roadways.

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