Heavy rain returned to the Washington area last night, flooding some streets, stranding motorists and topping off streams already swollen from Wednesday's all-day soaking.

The electrical storms that swept through, starting around 7 p.m., dropped more than two inches of rain at Reagan National Airport and 1 1/3 inches at Dulles International in the following two hours. The weather forced cancellation of several flights.

Flooding was reported in several locations. George Washington Memorial Parkway was closed between the Alexandria city line and the Memorial Bridge for an hour starting at 8:30 p.m., the result of high standing water that caused at least a dozen cars to stall, U.S. Park Police said.

When the water receded, some cars restarted and others were towed, said police spokesman Carl Wickline.

The Maryland State Fair at Timonium, north of Baltimore, was canceled because of heavy downpours.

In downtown Baltimore, 4.77 inches of rain fell in the space of a few hours, the Associated Press reported. Water poured off Interstate 83 and flooded a parking lot of a Baltimore athletic club, covering the tops of dozens of cars.

Elsewhere in the city, rushing water blasted a hole in the wall of at least one home, and the Glen Falls River overflowed its banks and carried away cars like toys, the AP said.

At the Howard-Anne Arundel County border, a short stretch of Furnace Avenue was closed shortly before midnight after a section of less than a mile was submerged under water, police said.

To the south, a thunderstorm packing gravel-sized hail knocked down tree limbs and power lines and damaged two fuel storage tanks in Richmond, the AP reported.

For the Washington region, groaning under the burden of various water restrictions, the past few days of rain, with more on the way, could signal a change in fortune.

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's drought task force meets next week, and there are signs that the first mandatory water restrictions in state history could be eased if the forecasts bear out.

"The governor's very encouraged by the early numbers coming out of the recent heavy rains and by the possibility we will be getting sufficient additional rain to provide relief from the restrictions," said Michael Morrill, Glendening's spokesman.

One to more than seven inches of rain have fallen across the region in recent days, helping to decrease the rainfall deficit accumulated over the past year. At National Airport, 21.24 inches have fallen over the past year, four inches less than normal. In Western Maryland, the deficit is closer to 14 inches.

Hydrologists were assessing the possibility that a large storm--perhaps Hurricane Dennis, now headed toward the Atlantic coast [story on Page A2], could affect Washington's weather.

Three years ago, remnants of Hurricane Fran dropped torrents of rain across the Potomac and Shenandoah river basins, swelling the rivers to 130 times and 200 times their normal flow, respectively.

The glut of water severely damaged the C&O Canal and rendered parts of Virginia disaster areas.