- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A storm system moving across the metropolitan area yesterday dropped nearly 2 inches of rain by late afternoon, and forecasters were warning about the threat of flash flooding.

Forecasters said 1 to 2 inches of rain had fallen in Montgomery County by late afternoon, and they expected another inch by 7:30 p.m. About 1.88 inches had fallen in Vienna, Va., by 5 p.m.

With up to 2 more inches expected to fall in the area by 2 a.m., the National Weather Service issued flash-flood warnings for Fairfax County in Virginia and Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties in Maryland.

“We issue a warning when flash flooding is occurring or imminent,” said Calvin Meadows of the Weather Service. “It basically means a rise in water level.”

In Montgomery County, law-enforcement officials said a fire at a home at 35 Piney Meetinghouse Court in Potomac likely was caused by lightning striking the pool house.

County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said agencies also received reports of downed power lines, flashing traffic signals and motorists trapped in high water.

“There have been a few wrecks throughout the county,” Mr. Piringer said. “A few have been serious, but I don’t think any have been life-threatening.”

Officer Derek Baliles, a county police spokesman, said the signal problems had only a minimal effect on traffic because schools in the county are on vacation this week.

He warned drivers to be cautious with standing water on the roads.

“It doesn’t take much to move your car right off the road,” Officer Baliles said. “If the water rises 6 to 8 inches, you change from [driving] a car to a boat. If you’re not sure how deep the water is, it may be best not to cross it.”

The weather also caused power outages. At 6 p.m., Potomac Electric Power Co. reported 1,031 Montgomery County customers without power and Dominion Virginia Power reported 1,355 customers in Northern Virginia without power.

“We had a sudden thunderstorm plus hail, depending on where you are,” said Mary-Beth Hutchinson, a Pepco spokeswoman. “The outages are scattered all over the place.”

Le-Ha Anderson, a spokeswoman for Dominion Virginia, said yesterday afternoon that power was expected to be restored by 11 p.m.

“The outages are primarily in the Great Falls and McLean area,” Miss Anderson said. “They’re scattered and mostly related to lightning strikes, but we don’t at this point have any tree or wind damage.”

Commuters experienced weather-related delays. MARC trains on the Brunswick and Camden lines could not exceed 40 mph because of flash-flood restrictions. Similar restrictions caused delays of more than an hour on the Virginia Railway Express’ Manassas line.

Forecasters expected the rain to end last night and called for increasingly sunny skies with temperatures reaching 62 degrees today.

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