- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

The overdue — then overwhelming — rain now in the region dampened several major events yesterday, including the start of a Christian festival on the Mall, and caused widespread flooding and traffic delays.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings until midnight for most of the region, including the District, most of Northern Virginia and Maryland’s Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

A total of 2.79 inches of rain had fallen as of 10:30 p.m. at Washington Dulles International Airport, said weather service spokesman Calvin Meadows.

A record 3 inches of rain was recorded Friday at Dulles Airport, eclipsing the mark of 1.55 inches set for that date in 1965.

Mr. Meadows said the steady downpours were a result of remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy and a slow-moving cold front, both of which should push the heavy rainstorms out of the region by tomorrow.

“The bulk of the precipitation is over,” he said.

More than 6 inches have fallen at Dulles Airport so far this month, according to National Weather Service statistics.

The torrential rains ended a months-long period of dry weather in the region. Only 0.15 inches of rain fell in September, the driest September in 111 years, but Mr. Meadows said the region isn’t in a real drought, despite the recent dry spell.

“We’re in an agricultural drought, not a hydrological one,” he said. “Whether the rain this weekend] ended it, that isn’t for the weather service to say.”

In the District, the rain caused the roof to collapse at the Potbelly Sandwich Works restaurant on Seventh Street Northwest. In the Edmonston neighborhood of Prince George’s County, a pumping station broke because of an electrical failure, sending more than a foot of water flooding into streets and some homes.

Pepco reported as many as 10,000 customers without power, including more than 8,500 in Montgomery County.

The rain caused havoc on a number of roads in Maryland, said David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. Roads were closed at about 20 locations in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, he said.

“There was a lot of standing water and downed trees all over the place,” Mr. Buck said. “Rain isn’t like snow, where you can push it out of the way.”

The unrelenting rain, which seemed to come from all angles and was accompanied by light fog in some places, made navigating some highways an adventure. Motorists crept along Route 50 through Anne Arundel and Prince George’s county, squinting to see through spray of passing 18-wheelers.

There were a number of accidents in the region, including an overturned tractor-trailer on the Capital Beltway at Kensington Parkway in the morning.

Bill Rice, spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the main problem had been power outages along Independence and Constitution avenues. The Massachusetts Avenue underpass below Thomas Circle in Northwest was closed because of flooding for much of the day. However, the stretch reopened by late afternoon.

Beverly Hunt, a traffic-control supervisor for the Virginia Department of Transportation, reported only minor traffic accidents and high standing water in a few areas.

The one-day record for rainfall in the District is 6.39 inches, set Aug. 23, 1933. The record for a consecutive two-day total, 8.67 inches, was set Aug. 11-12, 1928.

In the 1933 rainfall, winds had decreased to about 60 mph before the storm hit the region. However, it caused severe flooding along the Potomac River, especially in Alexandria. Boat landings and communities along the Chesapeake Bay shores were destroyed. The Benning Road bridge across the Anacostia River was under 3 feet of water, and Hyattsville firefighters rescued families from flooded homes.

On Aug. 11 and 12, 1928, a Category 2 hurricane arrived in the region after it dumped heavy rain across Florida, then zigzagged across the Southeast, sending rivers well above flood-stage levels and caused significant flooding in this area.

The weekend rains dampened the two-day evangelical Christian festival, which was expected to bring as many as 100,000 visitors to the Mall. A health fair, a children’s area, a food court and extreme-sports demonstrations were postponed until today.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that these events — which involved months of preparation and thousands of volunteers — had to be cancelled,” said Craig Chastain, a spokesman for the festival.

Still, about 1,000 soggy visitors stood in front of the main stage at about midday, mingling and dancing to live music.

“I think it would be an amazing event had the weather been good,” said Holly Hughes, 17, of Fairfax.

The nondenominational festival, organized by Christian evangelist Luis Palau, will continue today from 1 to 9:45 p.m.

The grand finale of the 2005 Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope to raise money for cancer research and awareness also was canceled because of the rain. Area cyclists joined Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor and Tour de France champion, and 24 cross-country riders for the final, 50-mile leg into the city.

The tour has raised $1.4 million so far, said Madeline Malia, an event spokeswoman.

“People didn’t seem disappointed at all,” she said. “They were still able to gather with family and friends. They still had Lance.”

• Reporter Amy Doolittle and researcher John Sopko contributed to this article.

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