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The Odds of a Major Flood in Washington, D.C., Will Quadruple by 2050

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A park bench underwater in East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.

“It’s like the end of the world down in Alexandria,” a friend texted me from the Virginia suburb as I watched the recent record downpour drench the nation’s capital during the morning rush hour. Nearly four inches of rain—a month’s worth—fell in just one hour on the immediate area surrounding Washington, D.C. In Alexandria, neighborhoods and commercial areas flooded as river gauges reported an 11-foot rise in one of its major streams.

The rain lasted nearly five hours, triggering the region’s first-ever flash-flood emergency declaration from the National Weather Service. Photos and videos on social media showed drivers stranded on roadways that had become rivers, waterfalls cascading onto tracks inside Metro stations, sinkholes opening up, and standing water in the White House.

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