- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2005

A storm system from the west brought nearly 3 inches of rain to parts of the Washington area yesterday, forcing the closure of several roads in Northern Virginia and leaving thousands without electricity.

The rain began overnight and by late afternoon yesterday about 2.63 inches had fallen at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, according to the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

Fairfax County police said Lawyers Road, east of Hunter Mill Road, and Prosperity Avenue at Hillside Road were among several roads closed because of standing water and flooding.

The bridge on Fairfax Station Road, just west of Ox Road, also was closed because it was under nearly 2 feet of water, said Officer Bud Walker, a Fairfax County police spokesman, who reported only a few accidents.

“We’ve been very lucky,” he said. “I’ve been pleasantly pleased.”

Residents in Arlington and Bethesda lost power when the combination of rain and wind gusts reaching speeds of roughly 30 mph sent trees and branches toppling into utility lines.

As of early yesterday evening, 3,512 Potomac Electric Power Co. customers in the District were without power. Baltimore Gas and Electric was reporting 2,391 customers without power in Anne Arundel County.

Le-Ha Anderson, a spokeswoman for Dominion Virginia Power, reported more than 700 outages in McLean and 1,000 in Falls Church.

“When the ground is saturated like it is, trees that have weakened roots are the trees that become a problem and topple over onto power lines,” she said. “It doesn’t take a very high wind when we have those weather conditions.”

The wind and driving rains prevented the Maryland Transportation Authority from opening one of the westbound lanes on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to drivers heading to the beach. As a result, there were backups all day yesterday.

Transportation authority spokesman Bryon Johnston said there was a 16-mile backup — all the way to Bowie — at 6 p.m.

A third eastbound lane was opened later in the evening, but the backups didn’t abate.

And the heavy rains contributed to the overflow of about 500,000 gallons of diluted sewage from a wastewater pumping station into Broad Creek in Fort Washington. Crews posted signs warning people to avoid the area and any contact with the water.

The storm system moved off the Atlantic Coast last night, but forecasters anticipated some showers and isolated thunderstorms today, with temperatures reaching the upper 60s.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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