I have this sentence:
The heavy downfall (rain and hail) last night caused severe damage to the surrounding area.
Does downfall mean the same as rainfall or precipitation in this context?
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Looking at a dictionary definition, downfall has the following meanings:
All usage examples are from news article headlines, which understandably favour the first two meanings. It is also well-known from the eponymous film about the end of Hitler's Third Reich.
In the same dictionary, downpour only has one meaning: "a heavy, drenching rain."
So while downfall can mean rain, downpour might be more obviously rain-related.
I think it would be understood, but it would be more natural to use either rainfall or downpour: Last night's heavy downpour caused severe damage to the the surrounding area.