Wednesday’s record rainfall no match for tropical storms

WASHINGTON – With the record rainfall totals the regain saw Wednesday, it is difficult not to compare that with some tropical weather that has come across the Mid-Atlantic in the past.

Here are a few graphics to compare this week’s total accumulated rain – up to 6 inches in spots – with rainfall produced from tropical storms, hurricanes, and remnants of tropical activity.


Hurricane Fran made landfall near Cape Fear, N.C., on Sept. 6, 1996 and weakened to a depression while moving through the state of Virginia. Fran dropped 16 inches of rain in the Big Meadows area causing record flooding along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Old Town Alexandria was evacuated due to rising water that was more than 3 feet deep. Flooding from Fran in Virginia caused $350 million in damage and more than 100 people were rescued from the flood waters.

Tidal flooding was also a problem on the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. A surge of 5.1 feet created moderate flooding around the Washington Harbor. The area received anywhere from 2 inches to 14 inches of rain.


Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear, N.C., on Sept. 16, 1999 as a Category 2 hurricane. It weakened as it moved through the Delmarva Peninsula but heavy rain fell across the Mid-Atlantic along a pre-existing front. Anywhere from 12 inches to 14 inches of rain were recorded in some spots of Maryland alone!

Minor flooding of low lying areas occurred in Southern Maryland including St. Mary’s, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties. D.C. received from 4 to 6 inches of total accumulated rainfall, with the WTOP listening area receiving on average between 2 and 12 inches.


Tropical Storm Ernesto tracked through Florida, entering at the southern tip and continued its path towards the east coast, finally making landfall as a tropical storm in Brunswick County, N.C., on August 31, 2006. As it reached southeastern Virginia, it became a tropical depression and became extratropical 24 hours later. It still dropped a lot of rain on the region though, measuring anywhere from near 7.75 inches in King George, Va., to more than 3 inches in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.


Hurricane Irene passed through the northeastern part of the U.S., making landfall on Aug. 27, 2011 near Cape Lookout, N.C., bringing heavy rainfall all across the region. Anywhere from 2 inches to 11.5 inches of rain was reported across the WTOP listening area (with St. Mary’s County receiving the heaviest rainfall averaging between 8 and 11 inches). Lots of roads were closed due to the massive flooding, mostly east of Interstate 95. In addition, according to the National Weather Service, the river gauge on St. Clement Creek near Clements, Md., in St. Mary’s County set a new record level of 6.98 feet.


Just a week and a half after Hurricane Irene moved through the area, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee scooted across our region in early September 2011. Grounds were already saturated in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. from the heavy rainfall from Irene. High pressure to the north blocked the storm from advancing and moving out of the region so rain continued to fall across the area. Heavy bands set up on Sept. 7, 2011 bringing rainfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour triggering high water rescues, road closures and flooded homes.

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