Showers, drizzle and downpour soaked the Washington area and neighboring jurisdictions yesterday, pushing the total rainfall figure for the first 17 days of May well above normal and easing worries about the welfare of crops, lawns and gardens.

Police said the wet weather delayed traffic and spawned an increase in minor traffic accidents. The Potomac Electric Power Co. and Virginia Power said several hundred customers scattered over the area lost electricity during an early morning thunderstorm.

By yesterday evening, more than two-thirds of an inch of rain had fallen at National Airport, bringing the total rainfall figure here for May to 3.07 inches, which is 1.22 inches more than normally falls here by this date in May, a National Weather Service forecaster said.

The higher than normal rainfall level follows a parched and crop-wilting April, in which drought afflicted most of the Eastern Seaboard, and only .03 inches of rain fell here, making it Washington's driest April on record.

Yesterday's rain "is definitely going to help things," said extension agent Mike Delano in Worcester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

In his county, Delano said, farmers had suspended the planting of soybeans "because the land got so dry."

Yesterday's rain would "allow farmers to go back and plant," Delano said.

In addition, he said, corn, vegetables and small grains would all benefit from the moisture.

In Virginia, Culpeper County extension agent Roy Heltzel said the 1 1/2 inches of rain measured since Thursday night "certainly has had a very beneficial effect."

The rain also benefited allergy sufferers whose ailments are triggered by the pollen produced and spread by trees and plants in dry weather.

It "tends to clear the air" said Dorothy Sogn, chief of allergy and clinical immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

As the low pressure system that brought yesterday's storm moves northeastward out of the area, skies here are expected to clear. The National Weather Service predicted a chance of showers this morning, and a partly sunny day Sunday.