- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

More rain fell in the D.C. area on Friday and Saturday than had fallen during any other 48-hour period during the past 33 years, the National Weather Service reported yesterday.

From midnight Thursday to midnight Saturday, 7.34 inches of rain were measured at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, said Brian Guyer, a meteorologist with the weather service.

That is the third highest amount of rain to fall over a 48-hour period since scientists began keeping records in 1871, Mr. Guyer said.

The two-day record remains at 8.67 inches, reported Aug. 11 and 12, 1928, Mr. Guyer said. The second greatest 48-hour rainfall was 7.52 inches, recorded June 21 and 22, 1972, the weather service said.

The weather forecast calls for more rain tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Some flooding was reported across the region, but the heavy rains caused more immediate and extended damage by weakening the ground around giant tree roots, which is causing older trees and limbs to fall onto roads and hundreds of power lines in the area.

That left hundreds of residences without electricity, officials at local power companies said.

“A lot of these beautiful big hardwoods are coming down,” said Mary-Beth Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco). “We’ve got crews out working double shifts of 12 and 16 hours.”

More than 7,500 outages were reported after the rain began Thursday night, but trees and branches continued to fall yesterday, and more outages were reported.

Trees are continuing to fall because the two-month drought shrunk the dirt around their roots, and then the “heavy rains saturated the ground into a slippery, soft mess,” Ms. Hutchinson said.

Last month was the driest September on record, with about 0.15 inch of rain measured.

Montgomery County was hit hardest by the rainfall, Ms. Hutchinson said. At its peak, more than 7,500 outages were reported.

At midafternoon yesterday, fewer than 100 outages remained in the District, 1,100 in Montgomery County and 300 in Prince George’s County.

The rain led to one death in Montgomery County.

Garrett Leroy Hopkins, 62, of Silver Spring, was killed on Bonifant Road east of Rockville at about 9 p.m. Saturday when a giant tree limb fell onto his pickup truck. Montgomery County police reported the limb was 4 feet in diameter and 30 feet long. A passenger in the pickup truck was in serious condition yesterday.

Nearly 12 hours after the rainfall ended, Pepco crews working at one site often were called to repair another newly downed power line that threatened immediate danger.

“Our first priority is to respond to potential life-threatening situations,” Ms. Hutchinson said. “There are so many downed wires. Don’t go near them. Don’t touch them. Don’t stand on the damp earth near them. Don’t stand in any water near them.”

Farther north on the East Coast, hundreds of residents evacuated their homes after rain washed out roads and flooded homes in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. At least three deaths were blamed on the storm.

In New Hampshire, at least one person was killed when a car went off a washed-out bridge in the town of Unity, said Pam Walsh, the governor’s spokeswoman.

In Pennsylvania, a person died after a car struck a guardrail in Bucks County and flipped into a creek, trapping the driver.

Forecasters said 10 inches of rain fell in Allentown, Pa., in the 24-hour period between Friday and Saturday. Rain fell at a rate of up to 2 inches per hour in parts of New Hampshire.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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