Drenching rain came again to the Washington area yesterday, forcing streams out of their banks and flooding some roads last night, where motorists' cars were stalled by rising water.

The heaviest downpours hit Montgomery and Howard counties, where two to four inches fell from 4 to 10 p.m., according to radar estimates from the National Weather Service. Loudoun and Fairfax counties were also heavily hit, with western Fairfax getting an estimated one to two inches.

Water from Rock Creek covered Beach Drive at Cedar Lane to a depth of up to two feet, said Montgomery County Fire Capt. Eric Ramacciotti. Beach Drive was closed from Cedar Lane to Connecticut Avenue before the water receded, he said.

In McLean, firefighters pulled a man and woman out of a car that stalled at Belleview Road and Old Dominion Drive when water reached the bottom of the door, officials said.

Fairfax County police and firefighters responded to about 25 accidents, most of them fender benders, from 5 to 10 p.m., a period when about five accidents is the norm, said Fire Capt. Greg McIntosh.

At least three houses were struck by lightning, McIntosh said, but no one was injured and damage was minor.

In Howard County, about 15,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers lost power, but overall, police said, no serious problems were reported because the heavy rains fell off-and-on rather than steadily.

"It's not bad," said Duty Officer Robert Ackley of the Howard County police. "It's running off, and people are getting by."

The rains were a patchwork affair, hitting some places much harder than others. AccuWeather reported late last night that 1.12 inches of rain fell at Dulles International Airport, starting at 6:30 p.m., and 0.33 inches fell at Reagan National starting at 8:30 p.m.

Weather service meteorologist Dewey Walston said the rains accompanied a cold front moving eastward from the Appalachian Mountains.

CAPTION: Cars pass through standing water going south on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, just north of Randolph Road.

CAPTION: Storm clouds hover over a wet Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring just south of the Capital Beltway. Montgomery County was especially hard hit by the showers.