- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Jeremy Webb and John Kort had no idea that when they boarded Metrorail early yesterday morning, they wouldn’t get off for about two hours.

The torrential rain that swept through the Washington region Sunday night submerged rail tracks, slowed traffic to a standstill, flooded basements and disrupted tourists’ plans.

Commuters found themselves stuck, much like Mr. Webb and Mr. Kort, on Metro trains that couldn’t go anywhere.

Mr. Webb, who lives near Capitol Hill but stayed in Fairfax Sunday night, boarded the train at the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU stop at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t get to his workplace near Foggy Bottom until 9:45 a.m. At one point, the train came to a halt for 50 minutes, he said.

Frustration mounted quickly.

“It was about a two-hour commute. It normally takes me about 20, 25 minutes,” Mr. Webb said. “It was ridiculous.”

Mr. Kort, an Alexandria resident who works near the McPherson Square stop, said he got marooned on a train for almost two hours on his way to work, too. “It was slow, slow, slow,” he said.

Metro service in the city was interrupted during the morning commute by high water on the electrified rails, but the service was restored by noon, a Metro spokeswoman said.

More than 5 inches of rain fell at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Sunday night and another 2.5 inches yesterday, according to the National Weather Service.

Sunday’s rain cut off electricity to most Smithsonian museums along the Mall.

Many streets in the District were flooded and closed to traffic. Crews had to shut down 12th Street under the Mall because of flooding.

Officials also had to close federal office buildings early yesterday because of flooding.

Officials shut down the IRS office building so crews could pump water out of the basement. Nearby, General Service Administration (GSA) crews began pumping water from other facilities.

“They’ve been there all night long. We’ve been here since 8 a.m.,” said Paul Bright, of GSA service M&M; Welding.

An elm tree at least 100 years old fell over near the front door of the White House, temporarily blocking part of a road on the Pennsylvania Avenue side, said Bill Line, a National Park Service spokesman.

The tree resembled one of two that appear on the back of the $20 bill framing the White House. While Mr. Line could not confirm that the one that toppled is the one depicted, its location and similarity to a tree that remains standing are notable. He referred further questions to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which manufactures U.S. currency. Calls to that agency were not immediately returned last night .

Many tourists were disappointed to find most of the museums locked for the day.

“We expected to come into the [National Museum of American History]. But when we got here, we discovered it was closed,” said George Ott, with his wife, Jan, and daughter Joslin from Naperville, Ill.

The downpours flooded Rock Creek in Northwest, which prompted officials to close the National Zoo early.

In the morning, Erin Salisbury, a D.C. social therapist, said she had to take a cab to work. But she said her clients couldn’t make the trip and keep their appointments.

“My clients didn’t show up for their appointments because of the Metro,” she said.

On the roads, the weather turned traffic into a sluggish mess.

“I couldn’t get around in the city at all. It was really bad,” said Betty Crawford, a D.C. cabdriver. “If there was a real terrorist attack or something, we’d be in real trouble if we had to evacuate the city.”

The rain was equally distressing for some local residents, particularly those whose basements flooded.

Kate Moody, a Georgetown University senior who is subletting a room this summer, said she would have to talk to her landlord because there was water in her basement.

“It wasn’t nice. I sleep there,” Miss Moody said. “The carpet was soaked totally through.”

Caught outside on the storm Sunday night, Miss Moody said the rain was “a nightmare.”

Still, she couldn’t help but marvel at the rushing water.

“There was 3 inches of water going down the street,” Miss Moody said. “It was impressive.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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