Tropical Storm Elsa brings heavy rain to DC region

What remains of Tropical Storm Elsa is expected move out of the D.C. region Friday, but not before bringing lots of rain to the area. Here’s what you need to know.

Calvert and St. Mary’s counties in Southern Maryland were under a tornado warning but it was canceled early. However, St. Mary’s County remains under a flash flood warning until 2:15 a.m. Friday morning.

In anticipation of the oncoming downpours, a flash flood watch is in effect for D.C. and Southern Maryland through Friday morning. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Calvert, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s and Talbot counties by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Scattered downpours formed in the D.C. area as the hot and humid atmosphere met the outer bands of Tropical Storm Elsa’s remnants.

The heaviest rain is expected to fall through 4 a.m. Friday, with the biggest impact east of D.C., closer to the center of the storm.

For D.C. and areas west, some rain is likely with a few downpours and storms in spots through 4 a.m. Friday.

The center of Elsa continued to move parallel to Interstate 95 in North Carolina before passing into Virginia this afternoon.

Once it reached Virginia, it shifted away from I-95 and headed toward the Delmarva Peninsula, according to Storm Team4 meteorologist Matt Ritter.

“But that’s just the center; the outermost rain bands will be close enough to bring a flash flood threat to most areas near and southeast of Washington this evening into the early morning hours on Friday,” Ritter said.

Heavy bands of rain began hitting Northwest D.C. around 3 p.m., while the bulk of the storm continued to make its way up the East Coast.

The biggest threat will be for Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties along with Southern Maryland, the Northern Neck and out to the Eastern Shore. Several of the areas that face the most severe impact from Elsa are warning residents to pay attention to notices being put out by regional emergency response agencies.

The main threat will be from heavy rain, with 2 to 3 inches “most likely” and isolated totals as high as 5 inches across Southern Maryland, according to the National Weather Service.

Closer to the District, Storm Team4 meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts said to expect anywhere from half an inch to 1.5 inches of rain, with amounts being less than a quarter-inch in areas west of I-95.

The National Weather Service said moderate to heavy rainfall over a few hours may cause streams and creeks to quickly rise out of their banks.

The agency warned that an isolated tornado is possible, especially across parts of Southern Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay and lower Tidal Potomac River. An isolated threat for waterspouts over those waters is possible, too.

The National Weather Service said tropical storm force winds are most likely over the waters and along the immediate shoreline of Maryland’s eastern Calvert and southeast St. Mary’s counties.

Dangerous rainfall flooding could have “possible significant impacts” east of I-95, where a flash flood watch is set to last until 8 a.m. Friday. That could prompt evacuations and rescues, according to the National Weather Service.

It said the storm could deliver hazardous wind to parts of Southern Maryland, resulting in uprooted trees, snapped branches and other flying debris. Scattered power and communications outages are possible.

Winds may gust to 50 miles per hour along the path of Elsa, according to Storm Team4 meteorologist Mike Stinneford.

The bulk of the storm should be out of the region before the morning rush hour, according to Ritter.

“It is a fast mover, so that’s some good news,” Ritter said.

After the rain, Ricketts said the D.C. area could get a few breaks of sunshine Friday morning through the early afternoon, as temperatures rise to around 90. But the cold front will touch off a few more widely scattered thunderstorms while it moves through the listening area.

“It will still be fairly humid through the day on Friday. Expect a few showers and thunderstorms by Friday afternoon into Friday evening. Some of these could be strong to severe,” Ricketts said.

Elsa seemed to spare Florida from significant damage, but authorities in Jacksonville said one person was killed Wednesday when a tree fell and struck two cars.


Friday: Mostly cloudy. Very warm, humid, and breezy. Scattered on-and-off thunderstorms. Highs: upper 80s to near 90.

Saturday: Partly sunny. Seasonably very warm but not as humid. Highs: mid- to upper 80s.

Sunday: Increasing clouds. Hotter and more humid. Scattered PM thunderstorms. Highs: upper 80s to near 90.

Current weather


WTOP’s Will Vitka and Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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