Driving rains flooded parts of Washington, DC, on Monday, shattering a daily record in just an hour, forcing 15 swift-water rescues from stranded cars and causing an undeniable leak in the White House.
“This is a life-threatening situation. Seek higher ground now!” the National Weather Service warned amid torrential rains that dropped 3.3 inches (8.4 cm) at Reagan National Airport from 9 a.m. through 10 a.m. ET (1200-1300 GMT), shattering in one hour the previous record of 2.2 inches (5.6 cm) set in 1958.
It was the seventh-wettest July day since record-keeping began in 1871, said NWS meteorologist Marc Chenard. “They broke their daily record in an hour,” he said.
Even more rainfall was recorded further northwest, in Arlington, Virginia, where about 5 inches (12.7 cm) fell from 9 to 10 a.m., Chenard said.
The rains eased by late morning and were expected to end by midday, Chenard said.
Torrents of water streamed through the ceiling of Metro stations, and major arteries serving Washington’s top museums and memorials shut down due to high water as local emergency personnel reported rescuing several people from cars. By midday, DC Fire and EMS said it had saved 15 drivers.
Firefighters used yellow rubber lifeboats to rescue those trapped by the flood waters.
Twitter images showed a photograph of a very wet floor beneath office chairs and desks on the basement level of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“White House is leaking,” CNN journalist Betsy Klein tweeted with the picture.