For the past few days, the roaring sound of the Potomac River has greeted visitors to Great Falls. Loud and constant, the sound was clearly audible from the parking lot at the visitor’s center Monday. The flooded Potomac River had transformed Great Falls into a boiling, churning set of rapids.
Heavy rain over the weekend swelled the Potomac River to flood stage at Little Falls, which is located near Great Falls. The flooding peaked Sunday, and the water had started to recede by Monday.
Between May 3 and 7, Reagan National Airport posted 3.17 inches of rain, while Dulles International Airport logged 3.26 inches.
With the onslaught of water from Great Falls flowing downstream into the tidal waters adjacent to the District, coastal flood warnings have been in effect since Sunday and remain that way until 6 p.m. Wednesday. A coastal flood watch extends through Thursday afternoon. Water levels have consistently risen one to two feet above normally dry land around high tide, with flooding reported around Hains Point.
Much of the rain is linked to a lumbering storm system that tracked across the Mid-Atlantic on Friday and Saturday. Since Sunday, it’s meandered offshore, piling up water along the coast.
Along the North Carolina Outer Banks, the battering surf has caused two houses to collapse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Viewing the falls
I arrived at Great Falls about an hour before sunset Monday and photographed the river from the Virginia side. The sky was clear, and warm light from the setting sun illuminated the churning water of the falls. It was a dramatic scene.
Flooding on the Potomac River to the level we saw over the weekend is not uncommon. For example, on Sept. 28, 2018, and May 17, 2014, we experienced similar water levels at Great Falls. In addition, the flooding from Superstorm Sandy was comparable on Oct. 31, 2012.
The last time I visited Great Falls was March 13, and patchy snow covered the ground. The water level was normal that day, perhaps a little low. As shown in the pair of photos below, the contrast is extreme. The river is constantly changing.
See more of the scenes from my trip to Great Falls on Monday below:
Jason Samenow contributed to this report.