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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/15/2008

Photography: Great Falls in Flood Stage

By Kevin Ambrose

Flood Watch tonight as more rain approaches

The Potomac River peaked just over flood stage at Great Falls on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

When I arrived at Great Falls National Park Tuesday afternoon, the parking lot was over half full and a steady stream of visitors moved up the trail toward the overlooks. The park always seems to do brisk business during floods. Our recent heavy rain put the Potomac River over flood stage, but it was still far from record levels.

Keep reading for more photos, including two showing how Tuesday's flooding compared to the Great Flood of 1996. More flooding rains on the way? See our full forecast through the weekend and into early next week.

Close-up photo of flooding on the Maryland bank of the Potomac River at Great Falls.

At the first overlook, which is closest to the falls, the spray from the river drifted through the air with help from strong breezes and coated everyone standing near the rail. Explosions of water would shoot water upward from the river over 10 feet into the air at the base of the falls, creating the river spray that was blown down river. In addition, the river made a tremendous roar, which could be heard quite a distance from the shoreline. It is an impressive scene that I never tire of watching or photographing.

Water explodes upward from the base of Great Falls.

The Flood of 1996 (top) compared to Tuesday's flooding (bottom) at the Great Falls flood marker.

By Kevin Ambrose  | May 15, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Photography  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Rain Returns Tonight
Next: CommuteCast: Flooding Concerns as Rain Returns


Dragon boat races canceled due to Potomac flooding

Posted by: Alex | May 15, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Who's up for tubing the river!

Posted by: wiredog | May 15, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The 1996 floods were amazing. If you were on the Billy Goat trial on the MD side, the rive would, at times, be lapping at your feet- the entire basin from the ridge where the trail is over to somewhere in VA was filled in and the Potomac looked as wide as it does below DC.

I recommend folks (carefully!!) checking it out during a flood- the awesome power is absolutely amazing- I've seen entire trees sucked underwater then shot up 50 feet into the air- an entire mature tree. Amazing power.

Posted by: DJ Monet | May 15, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I've been to the "falls" during dry season, these pictures are absolutely amazing! The only thing I've seen close to this is the Colorado River(from a distance). I hope I can see the falls during a flood!

Posted by: Ally Jagoda | May 15, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Awesome photos, as usual, Kevin, really neat stuff!

Posted by: Mike from the Blue Ridge | May 15, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Not to take away from Kevin's awesome pictures, but these reminded me of a set I took around Hurricane Isabel back in September 2003. (click on the images for a larger version)

The storm rolled in the 19th - I held back from heading to Great Falls until the 22nd because I thought it would be safer, but I would have been okay going a day earlier (which was flood stage), since the waters never breached the gorge.

At any rate, they give a good before and after comparison so you can grasp how awesome (in the actual meaning of the word) Great Falls at flood stage can be.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | May 15, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Chasmosaur, nice photo comparison. I went to Great Falls a couple days after your trip (on 9/24/03) and the water was still near the top of the gorge. Here's a photo from that day:

Posted by: Kevin, Capital Weather Gang | May 15, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Actually the flood of 1996 was caused not so much by rain but by the melting of over three feet of snow (at my place) after the huge snowstorm of Jan 6th. Upstream they had more than 36 inches and about four to five days later the temperature rose dramatically causing most of the snow to melt in one night.

Posted by: JT | May 15, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Hey Kevin. Definitely awesome sight to see the Potomac near flood stage at Great Falls. Last year during the spring, there was a much similar situation during the month of April 2007 following a heavy rain event. The Potomac Rivr reached flood stage during this event as well. It was so awesome to see.

Your pictures are awesome Kevin!!

Posted by: Jim Schuyler | May 17, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

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