- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Heavy showers that have drenched the region since Friday will continue at least through tomorrow, but weather forecasters say there’s no need to begin building an ark.

“It is not really a storm of epic proportions, if you compare some of the levels on the Potomac,” said Rich Hitchens of the National Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington bureau in Sterling, Va.

The Weather Service issued flood watches and warnings for many low-lying areas in Virginia and Maryland, which had been experiencing a slight drought. The weekend’s storms erased the area’s rain deficits, forecasters said.

“It’s quite beneficial,” Mr. Hitchens said. “It’s definitely helping groundwater and reservoir conditions.

“Maybe by late Wednesday we’ll start to dry out a little bit,” he added.

But even tomorrow, there is a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, and the threat of rain will be imminent all week.

“It looks like we’re stuck in kind of a rainy pattern for now,” said Sarah Allen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain in Hyattsville from 11 a.m. Sunday to 11 a.m. yesterday, National Weather Service meteorologist John Darnley said.

Meanwhile in flood-prone Alexandria, the city saw some flooding but was not hit as hard as it has been in the past.

“I think we’ve probably seen the worst of it,” said Rich Baier, Alexandria’s public works director. “Certainly, it was a storm that was beyond the capability of most urban places.”

A slow-moving thunderstorm, which began Friday and hit hardest Sunday, is being driven by a stubborn low-pressure system off the East Coast, the Weather Service reported. Winds from the south have pushed in a record amount of moisture.

The storm system has dumped the most rain on the area since 1996, judging by the level of the Potomac River at Little Falls pumping station in Bethesda.

“Our current prediction is that it might get up into the lower teens,” said Mr. Hitchens, noting that the water level at Little Falls is usually about 3 feet this time of year. “We haven’t been above 12 feet since [Hurricane Fran in 1996]. If you want to think of us being due, that wouldn’t be incorrect.”

The Potomac reached its highest recorded level in 1936, when it was recorded at 28.1 feet at Little Falls.

“That particular one put water on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial,” Mr. Hitchens said.

Hurricane Fran in 1996 lifted the Potomac River to 19.29 feet at Little Falls. In 1985, the river hit 17.99 feet, and in 1972, the Potomac reached 22.03 feet because of Hurricane Agnes.

But Sunday’s rainfall set single-day records.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport recorded 5.19 inches Sunday, breaking the old June 25 record of 1.6 inches, set in 1971.

Washington Dulles International Airport recorded 5.94 inches, breaking the old record of 1.66 inches, set in 1975.

The National Arboretum in Northeast recorded 7.37 inches.

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

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