Hurricane Charley, which produced devastation in Florida, prompted preparation and anticipation yesterday in Washington, but in much of the area it provided only modest amounts of precipitation.
By 10 p.m., a little less than a half-inch of rain had fallen at Reagan National Airport, no more was coming down and radar indicated that there was little, if any, in store.
Greater amounts of rain fell in southeastern Virginia and on Maryland's Eastern Shore as the rapidly weakening storm sped up the Atlantic coast. But winds were relatively light, and there were no reports of severe damage.
"Charley just kind of lost its punch," said Bob Spieldenner, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. "It just kind of fell apart as it came into the state. We were expecting tropical-strength wind, and we didn't get much of that."
On the Eastern Shore, rivers swelled and water pooled on roads. As of 9 p.m., however, no major flooding or damage had been reported.
"We've got rain but no wind," said Gary Powell, the shift supervisor in the Somerset County emergency services office. "Just like another summer storm."
In Worcester County, Teresa Owens, director of emergency services, said the storm turned out less severe than she expected. "But that's fine with me," she said.
In much of the Washington area, the effects of the storm appeared to be largely psychological and were experienced in advance of Charley's arrival.
As the hours passed yesterday under gray skies, homeowners stacked sandbags against basement doors, cleaned drains, built topsoil berms, patched roofs. They headed to hardware stores to get their hands on items that might be hard to find if the tropical storm warnings panned out: generators, water pumps, dehumidifiers and batteries.
"You have the forecast for rain here, and people hear all the stories about what's going on in Florida, and it's got everybody on edge," said John Weintraub, co-owner of Frager's Hardware on Capitol Hill, who saw a steady stream of customers stock up on supplies yesterday.
Residents might have been on edge, but they hadn't launched into the kind of full-scale, hatch-battening frenzy that's been known to deplete regional inventories of duct tape and bottled water within hours. The threat of Charley -- or what might remain of the storm after several hundred miles of power-sapping travel -- seemed to serve as a relatively gentle reminder to take care of overdue projects.
"A hurricane is a good incentive to do some home improvements that needed to be done anyway," said Amy Archibald, a Capitol Hill resident who yesterday afternoon rented a plumber's snake to try to unclog drains at her house.
As the hurricane traveled up the coast from Florida, it was downgraded to a tropical storm.
The National Weather Service said last night that Charley would continue to weaken overnight as it moved from the Washington region.
A new weather system is to arrive in the region late today, the Weather Service said, bringing pleasant conditions for the early part of the week.
A good deal of wind and rain had once been expected here from Charley. Meteorologists had said rainfall generally could amount to one to three inches, with as much as six inches possible in some areas.
Sustained winds of up to 35 mph had also been expected, with gusts of up to 50 mph. Because of recent rains that saturated the ground in many places, forecasters said flooding was likely near creeks and rivers and in areas of poor drainage.
Dawn Eischen, spokeswoman for the state Department of Emergency Management, said southeastern Virginia was vulnerable to flooding because of recent rains.
In Charles County, about 140 children attending a summer camp at Rock Point were evacuated to a shelter at Piccowaxen Middle School in Newburg, county spokeswoman Nina Voehl said. The camp is in an area subject to flooding.
"They wanted to get them out before the weather created a problem later," Voehl said.
Only minor tidal flooding had been anticipated because surges were expected to coincide with low tide. During Hurricane Isabel last year, Old Town Alexandria suffered heavy flooding, largely because of surges that pushed Potomac River waters onto the streets, city spokeswoman Barbara Gordon said. But city officials appeared unruffled yesterday.
"We're very optimistic," Gordon said. "With [one to three inches] expected, that's a nice, calm rainstorm."
At Barkley Square, a bakery and boutique for dogs in the heart of Old Town's most flood-prone area, employee Bridget Maher drove a truck to work yesterday to move inventory if necessary.
"It floods about once a year here," she said, standing near the sandbags at the shop's entrance. "It's a good place to do business, except when it rains."
For the third straight day, Amtrak canceled eight long-distance trains. Passengers traveling south of Richmond were redirected to buses, and some northbound trains were delayed yesterday. Amtrak said limited Florida service would be restored today.
"This place is deserted," said Saba Zegeye, an agent at National Car Rental in Union Station. "Fifty percent of our reservations today were no-shows."
With the area spared major storm damage, Montgomery County's urban search and rescue team was sent to Florida.
Staff writers Timothy Dwyer, Amit R. Paley, Michael D. Shear and Martin Weil contributed to this report.