From the ABC 7 Weather team

Flash flood warning hits D.C.; historic flooding possible

September 7, 2011 - 01:21 PM
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As much as 5 inches of rain could fall today around Virginia, Maryland and the District, and the government is prepping for "what could be one of the top ten major floods in our area."

A car takes a bath at Landover Mall. A flash flood warning is in effect for D.C., and rainfall above 5 inches is possible into the evening.

Sandal weather it is not. A storm bred by the leftovers of Tropical Depression Lee and an encroaching warm front is gushing copious quantities of rain onto the D.C. region, creating floods in streams, rivers, streets, parking lots, backyards and the jacket pockets of anybody unlucky enough to step outside with-out an umbrella. (Forecasts, Doppler radar.)

How bad is it? The National Park Service is “preparing for what could be one of the top ten major floods in our area,” says Bill Line, a park spokesman. There is a flash flood warning for D.C. and the suburbs until 5:45 p.m. That means the evening commute tonight will not be pleasant.

In the past three hours, nearly three inches of rainfall have been reported around D.C., Virginia and Maryland, and two more inches could drop before the evening. Check out Alex Liggitt’s liveblog for updates on the precipitation situation.

The heavy rain could last well into Thursday, too. The roads will be suitable for gondolas, so take it easy with the rudder… er, wheel, and don’t try to ford any standing water with your car. Why? Here's why:

car flooding d.c. virginia maryland flash flood

Sad van in Prince George's County. All photos courtesy of Brad Bell, WJLA

Turn around and find an alternate route, or just pull over with your blinkers and wait it out. (Or, heed to advice of the Montgomery County fire department and “use a stick to poke the ground in front of you with each step. It can help you determine water levels, the bottom surface and the safest possible way to get to higher ground.”)

Another reason to exercise caution: There is enough instability in the atmosphere above the I-95 corridor to produce strong storms later today. That entails the slight risk of damaging gusts of wind (a 15 percent chance) and “isolated tornadoes” (a 5 percent chance).

How’s the region handling this soggy pounding? The National Park Service declared a flood emergency yesterday, and trails are closed at Great Falls and hikers stand a chance of being stranded on towpaths by out-of-control canal waters choked with tree limbs and human-made detritus swept down from the higher elevations. And if you’re stuck out there, don’t even think about trying to use the facilities: “Portable toilets throughout the park are being emptied and closed,” according to Line.

The river forecasts for the next two days shows "moderate" flooding at Rock Creek and on the Potomac at the Georgetown shore. In Prince George's and Howard counties, there are “water rescues ongoing” and floodwaters have made many roads impassable.

Stay current with this grievously leaky storm with the latest weather alerts. Here's another shot of what we're dealing with today, taken from Ritchie Road in P.G.:

building flooding d.c. virginia maryland flash flood
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