- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Put away those galoshes and umbrellas: The downpours that drenched the Washington area yesterday and slowed the commute are on their way out.

“The commute [today] should be easier than” the one yesterday, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring. “We won’t have any ease in the traffic, of course, but most of the rain should be done.”

Mr. Feltgen said yesterday that it would be cloudy this morning, but that the skies will clear up and temperatures will climb into the high 70s by the afternoon. There is a possibility of scattered showers, he said.

The weather is expected to be a “marked improvement” over yesterday’s.

As residents fought off the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto last week, a “plume of moisture” sweeping in from the Texas Panhandle through Tennessee and all of the Northeast combined with an upper-atmosphere disturbance dumped 1.73 inches of rain on the region yesterday, Mr. Feltgen said. The accumulation was more than 14 times the average 0.12 inch of rainfall for this day.

The downpours turned yesterday’s morning rush hour into “a mess,” said police and transportation officials. Police across the region reported slowed traffic because of high water in some spots, and motorists were advised to take caution on the slick roads. Police also reported at least a half-dozen accidents yesterday, but were unable to determine how many were related to weather.

Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said that the day after Labor Day is generally known across the region as “Terrible Traffic Tuesday” because of the high volume of people returning to work after vacation and area schools reopening.

But the rain yesterday, combined with a temporary closure along a stretch of Route 1 in Prince William County because of high water, made the situation worse, she said.

“It was a slow commute because there was so much water on the roadways,” Miss Morris said. “Not a great way to start the back-to-school, back-to-work [commute after] we’ve all had a respite from traffic during July and August, and now everyone is back to their fall schedule.”

Standing water forced the closure of Washington Boulevard under Route 50 in Arlington, the Frederick Douglass Bridge in the District and Massachusetts Avenue at Thomas Circle in Northwest.

David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said Southern Maryland, the region of the state hit hardest by Ernesto in terms of power outages, had about 30 or 40 road closures on the weekend.

Erik Linden, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said crews today were ready to tackle weather-related issues, such as failed traffic signals and standing water.

“We should be in good shape,” he said.

Mr. Buck advised motorists to check the agency’s Web site, www.marylandroads.com, for updates on traffic conditions.

“It doesn’t take much to slow down traffic in the D.C. region, so when you put heavy rain into the mix, obviously, it slows things down,” he said.

The rest of the week is expected to be dry, with daytime temperatures climbing into the high 80s.

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