- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

1:37 p.m.

A brief morning respite from storms that soaked the metropolitan area last night is prompting guarded optimism from local highway officials about this afternoon’s commute.

“Most of the roads we have closed overnight are now reopened,” said David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. “There’s more rain coming, though. This could just be a little lull here.”

The series of storms that dumped up to 7 inches of rain on the region left several federal agencies closed this morning and washed out key commuter routes.

Karyn LeBlanc, a District Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the afternoon commute could be treacherous with more rain in the forecast.

“The ground is saturated, and the water has no place to go,” she said. “So, unfortunately, there may be additional flooding for the afternoon rush hour.”

Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), said Eisenhower Avenue leading to the Capital Beltway near Alexandria has been closed because of a mudslide.

About a dozen other intersections also are closed because of high water, including Route 1 and Old Colchester Road in Fairfax County and Braddock Road at the Fairfax County Parkway, she said.

“The message to motorists is, you’ve got to be alert,” Miss Morris said. If there’s “any water, don’t even think about [driving through it].”

At the peak of the storms’ aftermath, Mr. Buck said lanes were closed on about 35 major roadways in Maryland, including Route 1 in Prince George’s County, sections of Route 410 and University Boulevard.

A stay in the showers between 9 and 11 a.m. today enabled crews to reopen most of the roads, Mr. Buck said.

However, some main travel routes — including Route 29 at Lockwood Drive in Montgomery County — remained closed because of debris.

“The road system is impacted so greatly by any weather event,” Mr. Buck said. “One of the things we’ll be dealing with is a lot of downed tress because the ground is so saturated.”

In the District, several buildings were closed because of flooding, including the Internal Revenue Service headquarters, the Justice Department and the National Archives.

A large elm fell near the front door of the White House, partially blocking a road leading to the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the building.

The storm, which dumped 7.37 inches of rain at a collection station at the National Arboretum between 9 a.m. yesterday and 9 a.m. today, also shut down roads in more than 20 areas, including sections of Pennsylvania Avenue and the 12th Street Tunnel.

Many of the roads — including Constitution Avenue from Sixth to 17th streets and Dupont Circle at Connecticut Avenue — remained closed this morning because of high water.

Meanwhile, portions of the Capital Beltway near Alexandria were closed in both directions after a mudslide piled debris as high as 5 feet on the Inner Loop.

Crews worked to sweep the debris off the roadway and had all lanes reopened by 10:10 a.m.

“It took a ton of equipment to pick up and haul away all that muck and debris that was everywhere,” Miss Morris of VDOT said. “We did not want to open the lanes until it was perfectly safe.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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