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Heavy rainstorm strands Washington drivers, floods White House basement

Updated July 8, 2019 - 11:40 am

WASHINGTON — A slow-moving rainstorm Monday washed out roads, stranded drivers and soaked basements, including the White House’s, during a chaotic morning commute in the national capital region.

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.

National Weather Service meteorologist Cody Ledbetter said the storm dumped about 6.3 inches of rain near Frederick, Maryland, about 4.5 inches near Arlington, Virginia, and about 3.4 inches at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in a two-hour period.

“The storm was not moving very quickly,” Ledbetter said.

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 weather service. Four Mile Run, which runs through Arlington and Alexandria, saw a similar increase.

Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the fire department in Montgomery County, Maryland, said emergency workers used boats for dozens of rescues, plucking people from flooded cars.

“Everywhere I turned, there was traffic and roads closed,” he said.

Piringer said he didn’t immediately receive any reports of storm-related injuries.

In northern Virginia, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue said it responded to more than 30 calls for swift water rescues throughout the county. Authorities advised people to avoid driving if possible. Neighboring Arlington County also reported numerous rescues.

Gretchen Eisenberg’s morning 4-mile commute usually lasts 10 minutes. It took her nearly an hour to drive to work from her Frederick home. She stopped to shoot eye-popping video of a Frederick park inundated with raging floodwaters.

“I tried to take my normal route, but I had to turn around and take a different way in because of the flooding,” she said.

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