Washington More than a foot of rain washed out highways around the nation's capital Monday, toppled a 100-year-old elm tree on the White House lawn and caused flooding that closed major government departments and the National Archives, where the Declaration of Independence is kept under glass.
Motorists were stranded during the morning rush hour, commuter trains were halted and emergency crews used boats to rescue dozens of people marooned by high water.
Many government employees were told to stay home, and tourists found that some of the major landmarks that had drawn them to Washington were closed.
"I just wanted to hear about stuff about America that I haven't heard in my history books," 10-year-old Loria Hawn of Laurinburg, N.C., said with disappointment outside the locked National Museum of American History. The National Archives - where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are safe under glass - was shut down because the moat surrounding the building on Pennsylvania Avenue had flooded, spokeswoman Susan Cooper said. All records and national treasures were "safe and dry," she said.
The archives will remain closed today, just days before the Fourth of July weekend.
Flooding also closed IRS headquarters, the Commerce Department and the Justice Department, but the federal government as a whole remained in business.
The National Gallery of Art shut down because of a weather-related steam outage. The gallery uses steam to maintain the proper environment to preserve its priceless collections, a museum spokeswoman said. But the artworks were reported to be in no danger.
The National Zoo was closed to cars because of flooding in the parking lot but was open to pedestrians. Then it shut down entirely in the afternoon.
The tree that fell on the White House front lawn blocked a road, but visitors were not affected since no tours had been scheduled Monday, the National Park Service said.
More than 7 inches of rain fell in 24 hours in the city at the National Arboretum on Sunday and Monday, with up to 14 inches in parts of Delaware and 12 inches at Federalsburg, Md., on the Eastern Shore.
Just outside the city, more than 10 inches fell at Hyattsville, Md., where authorities evacuated 15 homes and used boats to rescue 69 people who were trapped inside.