- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Motorists can expect more traffic delays this morning from the heavy rains and winds that have knocked out traffic lights, spawned a sinkhole and stranded cars in flash floods.

Crews still had not restored power to more than 30 traffic lights in Montgomery County as of last night, said Kellie Boulware of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

However, no rain is forecast for today, so driving conditions should be better than those Tuesday morning when the storm stalled traffic and forced numerous school closings.

One of the major traffic problems occurred on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway after a tree fell on a car and caused traffic to back up for several miles.

Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police said the accident occurred at 8:30 a.m. in a northbound lane near Route 197. No injuries were reported. Motorists tried to avoid the accident by diverting to Interstate 95, which caused congestion on that road, too.

The 5 inches of rain early yesterday morning, which followed the 2 inches from Hurricane Isabel last week, created a gigantic sinkhole in Frederick County near Interstate 70 and Reichs Ford Road.

The 110-foot-long and 35-foot-deep hole — big enough to swallow a three-story building — closed the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 at about 5 a.m. All lanes were reopened about four hours later, but Reichs Ford Road will remain closed until the hole is filled in.

MARC train service to Frederick and Monocacy also could be canceled or delayed until the hole is filled.

Commuters in Frederick traveling near the Monocacy River can expect delays. The river crested yesterday 7 feet above flood level, washing out about 28 secondary roads.

State officials said the roads would likely remain closed through the morning rush hour, but they expect no problems on Interstates 270 and 70.

Yesterday’s morning rush hour became a long journey into noon for many motorists.

Standing water forced officials to close the outer loop of the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County from 5 to 7 a.m., causing a 25-mile backup.

Standing water also created problems yesterday morning.

Sections of Route 50 in Maryland were closed and backups ensued because of the water. The problem was debris from the hurricane clogging drains near Church Road and Kenilworth Avenue, said Cpl. Rob Moroney of the Maryland State Police.

In the District, emergency crews made three water rescues during the morning rush hour, said D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter.

The first occurred at 4:57 a.m. when five cars were stranded in high water on Canal Road NW between Foxhall Road and Chain Bridge. The second occurred about 25 minutes later when two cars were stranded in the 400 block of South Capitol Street. Another car was stranded in the 200 block of Lincoln Road NE. Mr. Etter reported no injuries.

Standing water from storm drains filled to capacity slowed traffic at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, said a D.C. Water and Sewer Authority spokeswoman. No accidents were reported.

A power malfunction caused backups on eastbound New York Avenue NE that lasted until the afternoon, said Pepco spokesman Tom R. Welle.

Many of yesterday’s delays were caused by traffic signals still knocked out by Isabel, said state highway officials, who are asking motorists to be courteous and remain patient.

The afternoon commute was also a problem for motorists crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. An 180-foot-wide sign on the Prince George’s County side of the bridge that carries the Beltway over the Potomac River was weakened by the hurricane and appeared ready to fall.

The bridge was closed at 1 p.m. so the sign could be taken down safely. The bridge was reopened by 4:25 p.m., said Valerie B. Edgar, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

“If it had fallen on the road it would have been quite catastrophic,” she said.

Brian DeBose and Matthew Cella contributed to this report.

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