Historic Flash Flood Hits DC, Stranding Cars in High Water

Reagan National Airport received 3 inches of rain in just one hour

D.C. was hit by a historic flash flood Monday morning, drenching the city with nearly 3.5 inches of rainfall in just two hours. 

The inundation stranded drivers, poured into Metro stations and soaked basements, including the White House's. 

Water gushed into the press workspace in the basement near the White House's West Wing. Government employees worked to drain puddles of standing water with wet vacs.

Flooding led to electrical outages that closed the National Archives Building and Museum, according to a statement from the National Archives, which said the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were safe and not in any danger.

A record 3.41 inches of rainfall was measured at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. 

Across the region, dangerous situations unfolded as fast-flowing water flooded many local roads. Multiple drivers quickly became stranded in high water, including a father who carried his two small daughters from a vehicle trapped in waist-deep floodwaters at Massachusetts Avenue and Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda.

Torrential rain fell around the region. In southern Maryland, along the Patuxent River, 4.03 inches were measured. Dulles International Airport got 1.05 inches. And Baltimore got 0.73 inches. 

A flood warning remains in effect for Prince George's County, Maryland, until 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. See all weather alerts here.

Storm Team declared a weather alert.

Dramatic scenes in the area included high water in the Ballston mall parking garage in Arlington, a flooded public pool in Potomac and a cascade of water in the Virginia Square Metro station. 

Water levels at Cameron Run in Alexandria, Virginia, a flood-prone area along the Capital Beltway, rose more than 7 feet over 30 minutes after 9 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. Four Mile Run, which runs through Arlington and Alexandria, saw a similar increase.

High water and downed trees were reported in multiple spots around the area. Multiple local roads were closed due to high water.

Canal Road NW between Foxhall Road and Arizona Ave. remains closed in D.C.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday morning that the most problematic locations in D.C. were Canal Road near Fletcher's Cove and near Arizona Avenue, Malcolm X Avenue and S. Capitol Street, and 15th and Constitution Avenue. 

"We will be watching for receding waters," Bowser said live on News4. "We are asking motorists to plan ahead for the evening commute. Leave yourself enough time, avoid these problem areas and drive slowly."

Anyone who sees standing water should call 311 in the District to report it. Call 911 if you're having an emergency, Bowser said. 

As of noon, D.C. Fire and EMS crews had rescued 15 people from cars in high water. Six of the rescues were made on Canal Road NW. Three were made at Malcolm X Avenue and S. Capitol Street SE, another three were made at S. Capitol Street and Southern Avenue SE, and another three were made at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

The risk of flash flooding was heightened because the D.C. area had already gotten several good soakings of rain lately, leaving the soil fairly saturated, said Storm Team4.

High-Water Rescues Reported in DC, MD, VA

The number of high-water rescues keeps going up as the day continues.

In one of the earliest incidents Monday, someone in a vehicle got stuck in high water at W. Old Baltimore Road and Barnesville Road in Barnesville, Maryland. Another water rescue was reported at Meadowlark Road and Brookside Lane at Wolf Trap, where the road was closed.

Crews also were working to rescue two people from a car in Fairfax County, in the 6500 block of Old Dominion Drive in the McLean area.

Authorities around the region also reported other water rescues.

One driver who got stranded in high water recounted the terrifying moments after she got trapped.

"I really freaked out. I didn't know what to do," she said. "I called the police, and the police came right away."

"I thought, 'I'm going to die,'" she said. "... It was a lot of water."

Another woman saw an SUV in a flooded area of Goldsboro Road near Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda.

She waited and worried that the vehicle would stall and its occupants would be trapped.

Sure enough, a man climbed out the window, unable to open the car door. Then he reached inside, pulled out his two young daughters and carried them across waist-deep floodwaters, one on each arm. 

"The kids were a little bit afraid," the woman said. "And they were like, 'Oh, Dad, what's gonna happen to the car? And what's gonna happen to our backpacks?'"

The woman drove the family home.

Later, she returned to the scene with the dad to get the girls' backpacks.

Remember to avoid high or fast-moving water at all costs: Turn around, don't drown.

"Many motorists have not experienced fast water," Bowser said. "We ask them, don't think you can drive through it, because you just simply cannot."'

Montgomery County Fire & Rescue received its first call for a water rescue in Germantown before 8 a.m., said spokesman Pete Piringer. Since then, it's had dozens of calls.

There are a lot of cases of overwhelmed storm drains, and the remnants of the heavy rain washed out some roads and some bridges, especially along westbound Interstate 270, Piringer said.

Piringer also cautioned people not to drive on flooded roads.

“It only takes a few inches of moving water to move a vehicle," he said.

Rainfall Hits Metro Stations 

Heavy water gushed into the Virginia Square Metro station for 20 minutes, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. Trains single-tracked through the station, causing delays on the Orange and Silver lines as Metro worked to resolve the issue.

The Red Line also experienced delays of 30 minutes and longer after arcing insulators outside the Friendship Heights station during the morning rush hour. 

Riders who were delayed during rush hour were encouraged to register their SmarTrip card and get their money back as a part of Metro’s rush hour promise commitment.

What to Expect This Week

After some of the heaviest rainfall on record, the D.C. area will get a chance to dry out. 

Tuesday will be hotter, with a high of 88 degrees and sunshine. Wednesday has an expected high of 90 degree and sun. Then, storms are expected Thursday, followed by showers on Friday. The weekend looks like it will be dry. 

Stay with Storm Team4 for the latest forecast.

CORRECTION (July 8, 2019, 2:09 p.m.): A previous version of this story misstated the Bethesda location where a father and two daughters were stranded.

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