October 30, 2012 / 5:30 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. capital escapes brunt of storm Sandy

* Sandy dumps 4 inches of rain in Washington

* Area sees felled trees, road closures, some power outages

* Potomac River flooding still a worry

By Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - The nation’s capital appeared to have escaped the worst of monster storm Sandy on Tuesday, although concerns remained about the potential for severe flooding along the Potomac River.

Washington suffered high winds and rains that brought down trees on some homes and flooded a few roads. But the area got off relatively lightly compared to New Jersey, where Sandy came ashore on Monday night, and battered New York City.

As of 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) Tuesday, more than 4 inches (10.2 cm) of rain had fallen over the course of the storm in Washington, the National Weather Service said late Tuesday morning.

Although Sandy has moved on from the area, weather officials said flooding could still be a concern.

“Flood and flash flood watches and warnings are in effect over portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states,” the weather service said in its 11 a.m. update.

On Monday, the weather service warned that the storm was expected to cause the worst floods in 16 years along the Potomac River starting on Tuesday night. This could affect the historic Georgetown neighborhood along the river as well as parts of the National Mall.

So far, the river’s waters had swelled, reaching docks and some parkland but had not yet caused more extensive problems, media reported.

Washington’s Canal Road near the river was closed on Tuesday because of flooding, radio station WTOP said.

Power outages in the region appeared to be limited. Just over 139,000 people were without power Tuesday afternoon because of the severe weather, according to a Washington Post website tracking blackouts.

The vast majority of these outages were in the suburbs of northern Virginia. In the District of Colombia itself a mere 2,999 customers were without power, the Post said.

Federal workers stayed home from work for a second day on Tuesday, and there was no immediate word about whether they would be expected to return on Wednesday. Washington city schools were also closed.

But the Washington transit authority announced it was resuming limited rail service on the Metro on Tuesday afternoon, and normal service would resume on Wednesday.

Another sign that life was returning to normal: the DC Taxicab Commission said the surcharge it had authorized drivers to levy during the storm -- $15 -- expired at noon.

There were some reports of storm damage around town. In Washington’s small Chinatown, a small metal piece of an ornate arch over the main street came loose and dangled precariously, causing police to block one lane of traffic below.

The White House announced President Barack Obama would eschew campaigning for re-election and stay in town another day, Wednesday to oversee the hurricane response.

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