Heavy rains over the past week lead to Potomac River flooding


The power of the Potomac River, surging over Great Falls, was on full display this weekend.

The river is now swollen from six inches of rain over the last eight days.

“After all this rain over the last days, it’s really fantastic to see this,” said Hans Ulrich, a visitor from Germany. “If you see the whole Potomac down below, and how narrow it is, it’s amazing to see all that force coming down.”

The National Park Service, citing the high waters, closed the Billy Goat and Overlook trails on the Maryland side of the falls Sunday.

Flooding also forced the closure of at least one parking lot on the Virginia side, leading to long delays for people driving in.

Several walkways to the riverbank were taped off, warning people not to get too close.

But explorer George Kashouh didn’t seem to mind.

“I’ve been to Great Falls all my life,” he said with a smile. “And I’ve never seen it flood like this before, pretty incredible.”

Kashouh, who’s climbed Mt. Everest among other high peaks, was clearly fascinated with the power of the rain-swollen falls.

“All that water, the sounds, you can hear it from far away,” he said.

Sunday’s mostly rain-free weather brought out huge crowds; there were even traffic back-ups on the Virginia side.

“Finally stopped raining,” said Yuvanni Balanca, of Woodbridge, with a grin. “So you get a chance to be out, enjoy the weather before it starts raining again.

But on a Coastal Flood Warning weekend, there was a downside.

“We’ve seen how aggressive the water’s been running,” said Michael Stevens, a former Great Falls resident who now lives in Colorado. “It’s at flood stage right now. It pushed us off the water.”

Stevens, who’s filming a documentary called “Reviving the Backyard,” was on a bicycling-paddling excursion along the Potomac until conditions got too rough.

“Yeah, scary out there for sure, yeah,” he said. “The water itself is covering islands that are usually pretty clear at average water levels.”

Downstream, in D.C.'s East Potomac Park, water is surging over riverside fences.

Walking and bike paths, and even some park roads, are underwater.

Stevens says he’s glad he and his friend were able to escape the storm-fueled current.

“We were just happy we’re safe and we haven’t called our parents,” he said. “We know they’re nervous, so we’re excited to stumble through the door and come home.”

But he does worry about the Potomac’s water: filled with storm debris, pieces of wood, plastic bottles and much more.

“The amount of debris that’s in the water, it’s pretty breathtaking. It’s covering whole shorelines,” Stevens said.

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