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  • Special Report: The Drought of '99

  •   Heavy Rain Eases But Doesn't End Drought

    By Scott Wilson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, August 26, 1999; Page B2

    The Washington area received a much-needed soaking yesterday that boosted river flows and helped fill depleted reservoirs across the region. But Maryland officials and weather forecasters warned that the downpour did not signal an end to the drought that has brought water restrictions statewide.

    The weather contributed to a traffic fatality in Brandywine, according to Prince George's County police. Kerstin Veronica Savoy, 16, of Aquasco, was killed when her car went out of control on wet pavement and collided with a sport-utility vehicle and a pickup truck, police said.

    By late last night, 3.03 inches of rain had fallen at Dulles International Airport, and 1.37 inches at Reagan National, well above the August daily average of 0.12 inch. The rain was torrential elsewhere. Riviera Beach in northern Anne Arundel County recorded 7 inches, and more than 5 inches had fallen in Annapolis. Hollywood, in St. Mary's County, recorded more than 5.25 inches of rain. Mountainous areas to the west of Washington recorded more than 3 inches.

    "This definitely helps with the drought," said John Margraf, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "A lot of places got a half an inch of rain, and some places got between one and three inches. This will certainly help, but it won't solve all of our problems."

    Much of the rain fell to the north and west of the District, where it will most benefit the drought-depleted Potomac River, which supplies water to the city and its suburbs. And more showers may be on the way. Forecasters predict scattered thunderstorms into Saturday, with the best chance for heavy rain later today and tonight.

    Most Maryland officials and hydrologists say that to emerge from one of the worst droughts on record, the Washington region needs as much as 20 inches of rain, or several months of rainfall at more than one and a half times normal amounts.

    Maryland officials have acknowledged that the heavy rain of recent days increases pressure on them to lift the first mandatory restrictions on water use in state history.

    But Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) said Tuesday that the limits would remain for at least two more months. Aides have warned that the restrictions may even be tightened unless the governor sees improvement in state stream flows and reservoirs. State reservoirs are now more than 50 billion gallons below capacity.

    "We're holding our own," said Susan Woods, communications director for the Maryland Department of the Environment. "It's not getting a whole lot better, but it's not getting worse."

    Tropical Storm Dennis, meanwhile, stalled yesterday afternoon to the southeast of the Bahamas, where it gathered strength and began to curl into the tight telltale spiral of a hurricane.

    Forecasters say it is too early to tell whether Dennis will skim along the East Coast and make it as far north as Washington, but they had not ruled that out as a possibility.

    "Is it going to curve into the Florida coast? Is it going to curve into the Georgia coast? Is it going to curve out to sea?" Margraf said. "It is too early to tell."

    Staff writer Phuong Ly contributed to this report.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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