Heavy rain accompanied by thunder, lightning, high winds and hail fell in parts of the Washington area last night, knocking out power in some locations and helping to ease the effects of the drought that has gripped much of the eastern seaboard.
The 1.41 inches recorded at National Airport last night before the storm had subsided gave Washington its most thorough dousing in at least six weeks.
"It'll help very much because there was enough steady rain to soak in," said extension agent Daniel S. Braucher in Frederick County, Md. "It was a good soaking rain and at comes at a critical time . . . when a lot of the farmers are doing their planting."
However, the amount of rainfall varied sharply from place to place, with some outlying jurisdictions reporting only sprinkles last night.
In addition, a National Weather Service forecaster said last night's downpour represented no significant change in weather patterns that have parched the East Coast from Maine to Florida, withering crops and, in some places, forcing bans on car washing and lawn watering.
After southerly winds had brought moist air into the area from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, a disturbance in the upper atmosphere triggered the rain, forecaster Barry Kercher said.
He said there is a chance of rain Wednesday, but that the rest of the week is expected to be warm and partly sunny.
The highest wind gust reported at National Airport was 45 miles an hour, recorded at 7:32 p.m. Pea-sized hailstones were reported near Rockville and near Hagerstown.
Electricity was knocked out in scattered locations in Montgomery County, and about 1,500 homes were reported without service for a time in Fairfax County.
* Rainfall varied sharply in amounts throughout the region. After 2.5 inches was reported in Culpeper, and 1.17 inches within 20 minutes in Olney, observers in Calvert County and on Maryland's Eastern Shore said the rain had bypassed or not yet reached them.
"It's going to be a help," Fauquier County agricultural agent W.C. Brown said of the rain. He said he had recorded about one-half inch, which he expected to "make the corn germinate a little bit and make the grass perk up."