Sunday, July 4, 2004

The heaviest Fourth of July rainfall in D.C. history canceled a lot of events and kept people indoors.

The National Weather Service late yesterday afternoon confirmed that rain from thunderstorms had broken the 1882 record of 2 inches and was still falling. Records go back to 1871.

“This is probably going to cause a lot of postponements,” said Andy Woodcock, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “At the very least, this is sure to keep people at home.”

The last time the region had heavy rain on a July Fourth was 2001, when about 1 inch fell. In 1989, 1.28 inches fell on the region.

Many cities and towns planned to go ahead with such holiday events as concerts and fireworks displays, despite intermittent lightning and heavy winds.

Rockville hosts one of the area’s largest July Fourth events. By late afternoon, officials still planned to stage patriotic music and jazz bands, followed by fireworks at nightfall.

However, Greenbelt officials postponed their fireworks display until tonight, as others considered similar backup plans.

Police reported no major auto accidents or traffic backups, despite rain that occasionally blinded motorists and created dangerous runnels on sloped streets.

“There have been tons of accidents due to high water and rain, but nothing fatal or near-fatal,” a Montgomery County police spokesman said. “Anytime it storms like this, people cannot drive and they get into accidents.”

Metro reported a drop of at more than 100,000 riders from last July Fourth, likely the result of the weather. By 10 p.m., 304,760 passengers had entered the Metrorail system, compared with the 427,211 riders by the same time last year.

Thousands came to the District for America’s 2004 Independence Day Parade, which was canceled because of the weather, and for the fireworks display on the Mall. Some waited out the storm under tents, ponchos or umbrellas.

“We don’t go anywhere without our [University of Florida] ‘Gator ponchos,” said Denise Nagle, 39. “A little rain won’t stop us. We’re known as the ‘Gator family.”

Mrs. Nagle, her husband and two children drove from Seminole, Fla., to celebrate the Fourth of July in Washington. As of late afternoon, the fireworks were still scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.

“We wanted the thrill of seeing the fireworks and festivities in our nation’s capital,” Mrs. Nagle said. “The weather isn’t as great as we’d expected, but we’re having a good time anyway.”

• S.A. Miller contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire reports.

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