Tropical Storm Andrea Has Small Impact in DMV Area

Although no serious damage was caused by Tropical Storm Andrea, many residents of the D.C. area experienced flooding and fallen trees during their evening commutes Friday.

Andrea delivered rainfall -- sometimes heavy -- into the evening, forcing commuters -- and those heading out of town for the weekend -- to face hazardous driving conditions and long backups. Transportation officials around the region reported accidents and lane closures due to standing water.

The Maryland Transportation Authority warned of long Bay Bridge delays, where weather conditions prevented two-way traffic on the westbound span, leaving only two eastbound lanes open. A 20-mile backup was reported at  5:45 p.m. Surrounding routes also were backed up.

Delays were reported on I-95 and the B-W Parkway in Maryland, as well as southbound I-95 between the Beltway and Fredericksburg in Virginia. Seven cars were involved in an accident on the Outer Loop of the Beltway in Prince George's County after a tractor-trailer jackknifed about 2 p.m.

Southbound traffic on I-395 stopped between Duke Street and Edsall Road in Alexandria due to a crash. Delays remained after 5 p.m., but the crash was cleared.

The weather also may be the culprit for some fallen trees in the area.

Whittier Boulevard in Bethesda reopened Friday evening after crews cleaned up some storm debris. The rain is believed to have caused a large tree to fall in the 8100 block.

In Arlington, a tree fell on a house (pictured, right) about 11:30 a.m. The homeowner said the tree actually split, and he is unsure what caused that. The family, which was not home at the time, does not have power because the tree took down power lines. 

Hundreds of other customers lost power in the area, the Associated Press reported.

About 2-3 inches of rain fell in the D.C. area since it began raining Thursday, Storm Team 4 Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer said. The heaviest rain during the afternoon moved east, and the remnants of Andrea are down to the south and east, where most of the heavey rain will stay. The storm will move back out over open waters around Ocean City, Md., about 2 a.m.

Flash flooding can be dangerous, particularly to drivers who think they can drive through standing water, said Storm Team4 meteorologist Tom Kierein.

"Every time we get high water, people get stranded driving," he said. "People are driving a big SUV and they think, 'I have ground clearance, I will be fine,' but they don't know how deep that water is."

Even shallow water can separate a car's tires from the roads -- and lead to the car floating away.

Another safety concern: streams and creeks that are attractive to kids and thrill-seekers, who can be swept away by fast-moving water, Kierein said.

“Commuters heading home this evening are reminded that they will be faced with the same treacherous weather conditions as this morning’s drive to work,” AAA Mid-Atlantic's John B. Townsend said. “The most important steps to take when driving in wet weather are to buckle up, slow down, and keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.”

  • Slow down and increase following distances. Safe following distance on slippery roads should be increased to eight seconds.
  • Do not attempt to drive through standing water. Try to avoid bridges and roads known to flood. On pothole-filled roads, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
  • Watch out for hydroplaning, even with four-wheel drive vehicles.
  • Alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing with your brake lights. Without anti-lock brakes, squeeze the brakes until they are about to lock up and then release. With anti-lock brakes, use the same move – but don’t pump the brakes, which would work against the operation of the ABS system. Slow down as you approach a pothole. However, do not brake when your vehicle is directly over a pothole.
  • Use the central lanes. Avoid outside lanes where the water collects at curbside.
  • Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility.
  • Use your defroster with your air conditioning to keep the air dry and prevent windows from fogging.
  • Do not drive around barricades.
  • Turn off the cruise control in wet weather driving. The use of cruise control on wet roads can cause hydroplaning.
  • If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit and find a safe location. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge where you may feel less anxiety.

The heavy rain forced the Virginia Department of Transportation to cancel a series of weekend closures on the HOV lanes on Interstates 95 and 395. VDOT had planned to close the lanes overnight Friday and Saturday on their entire length, from the D.C. line to Dumfries in southern Prince William County, similar to closures in place recent weekends for work on the 95 Express Lanes project.

Virginia State Police said they were not planning extra patrols as a result of the storm and reported no fatal storm-related accidents in northern Virginia. One minor accident early Friday on the Capital Beltway near Alexandria occurred when a car struck a VDOT truck that was pumping water off the road. One fatal wreck in southwest Virginia was attributed to the storm.

Anyone planning to go to beach should wait until Saturday, Kammerer advised. The National Weather Service issued a beach hazards statement due to a risk of high rip currents through the evening.

Big waves can be expected, too, when winds blow against the tidal flow.

Saturday and Sunday will be mostly dry, but there will be a chance of rain both days.

Andrea became the first named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season Wednesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes we'll see 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms this season, with seven to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and three to six that become major hurricanes.


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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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