An intense thunderstorm struck the Washington area yesterday evening, bringing flooding rains, scattered power outages and dazzling displays of lightning.

Throughout the area, motorists were stranded on roadsides as the storm whipped up blinding sheets of rain, making driving in some places nearly impossible.

Fender-bender accidents were reported in almost every area jurisdiction, but motorists appeared to have avoided any major mishaps.

In Northern Virginia, power had failed in about 3,000 scattered residences, mainly because of lightning, a Vepco spokesman said.

Fire and police departments in most jurisdictions were kept busy with reports of flooded basements and stalled automobiles, which in some cases blocked roadways. Nearly everywhere, bells were ringing and sirens blaring as the weather and accompanying fluctuations in household voltage touched off home burglar and fire alarms, authorities said.

Rock Creek Parkway and Beach Drive in the District, as well as portions of other roads in low-lying areas, were closed to traffic for at least part of the night.

On the George Washington Parkway in Glen Echo, a clogged storm drain caused a mudslide that left 8 inches of dirt and another 8 inches of water on the road surface, according to U.S. Park Police.

Ramps leading onto the area's interstate highways also were reported flooded in some areas. Two cars collided at the beltway and Rockville Pike in Bethesda when one car hit a pool of water and stalled and another car plowed into it. No serious injuries were reported.

For the most part, however, motorists appeared to play it safe and simply pulled to the side of the road, officials said.

The storm hit initially around 6:30 p.m. at Dulles Airport. In Leesburg, 3 inches of rainfall was reported within 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm also brought winds of between 25 and 40 mph in outlying areas of Northern Virginia and Frederick County, Md. Scattered small hail also was reported.

Heaviest hit by rains were parts of Charles and Prince George's counties.

Rains earlier in the day forced the evacuation of some families in the Charlottesville area. North of Charlottesville, 31 cars of a 64-car coal train jumped the track, apparently because of a washed-out road bed.