Live updates: Storms race across D.C. region

June 13, 2013

Storms swept through the region Thursday morning, followed by a second round of intense weather in the afternoon. See our live coverage of the storms below.

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Signing off the live blog

The storms provided a quick — but potent — wallop to the region this afternoon. Crews are in the midst of cleaning up downed power lines and trees. Get the latest on the tornado that struck Montgomery County  here.

Before we officially sign off, we wanted to give one more update on power outages, which have dropped sharply to about 32,000 as of 7 p.m. That’s down from a peak of around 70,000 this afternoon.

Northern Virginia: 8,032

Montgomery: 23,056

Prince George’s: 1,562

District: 81

Track the number of power cuts with our outage tracker.

Quieter weather ahead

Now that these storms are history, we can look forward to some much more tranquil and enjoyable weather.

We dry out some tonight, with just a few lingering sprinkles.  Lows drop back to around 60 with a steady breeze.

Tomorrow’s partly sunny and cooler, but not completely flawless.  We can’t rule out a stray shower or two, with highs in the mid-to-upper 70s.

For more details, check out our PM Update: Thank goodness storms are over; better weather ahead

MoCo police: No serious injuries, 35 traffic signals out

Montgomery County, which was hammered by the storm, appears so far to have avoided any serious injuries to its citizens, the Montgomery County Police report. There are numerous wires down and fallen trees as well as 35 traffic signals without power.

Photo: Uprooted trees in Rockville

While the storm was brief, it was quite strong across the region. This image of these fallen trees offers a good example:

Photo: Live wire ignites tree fire

Post photographer Michael S. Williamson captured this dramatic image of a tree catching fire from a live power line on New Hampshire Avenue in Colesville.

One dead from storm in central Va.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is reporting that one person has died in the storms in central Virginia. There were no additional details immediately available about where the death occurred or how it happened.

Outages top 62,000 in the region

More than 62,000 people were without power as of 6 p.m. after quick-moving storms rushed through the region. Here are the latest numbers:

Northern Virginia: 23,723

Montgomery: 33,657

Prince George’s: 4,753

District: 152

Track the number of power cuts with our outage tracker.

Video of possible tornado hitting Rockville

Hot 99.5 has posted a video of what appears to be a tornado on the ground in Rockville near Clear Channel Radio’s office.

It’s not 100 percent possible to tell if the funnel has touched down, but I suspect it has.

Here’s the video:

Dramatic video of violent winds in North Potomac

This video was shot at Shady Grove and Piney Meetinghouse roads in Montgomery County by Twitter follower @JLH_23.

Falling tree damages home in Laurel

A tree demolished a house in west Laurel and other damage was reported to other homes, but no residents were injured, officials said.

Authorities warn residents to be careful of downed wires and possible flooded areas as they emerge from shelter.

— Clarence Williams

 

Photos: Man trapped by tree, more damage

The wind and rain didn’t last long, but it left behind downed trees and power lines.

Major delays at D.C. area airports

The storm that just tore through the Washington region was relatively brief, but it is significantly impacting air travel.

At Reagan National and Dulles International airports, departing planes are encountering delays of about two hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport has scores of flights arriving and departing experiencing delays and cancellations.

In addition, Philadelphia and New York-area airports are experiencing delays. If you’re flying today, expect to encounter delays and cancellations.

At BWI Airport, travelers and employees were instructed to seek shelter as the storm approached. They went to the airport’s lower levels or bathrooms for about half an hour, said Jonathan Dean, an airport spokesman.

The airline has a plan in place for such a situation, which involved alerting travelers by making overhead announcements and having visual notices posted on the flight status monitors, Dean said.

And even though the experience was relatively brief, travelers should expect delays “through the evening,” he said.

The Washington Post’s Kent Babb took this photo of a plane approaching National Airport as the storm was moving through the region:

Some peak wind gusts from the storms

Here’s a roundup of some of the highest wind gusts I’ve seen logged from the storms that  passed through:

Hemingway’s on east side of Bay Bridge: 68 mph (via WeatherBug)
Rockville, Md.: 63 mph
Hollywood, St. Mary’s County: 61 mph
Beltsville, Md.: 59 mph (via WeatherBug)
Seaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C.: 52 mph (via WeatherBug)
Washington and Lee High School (Arlington, Va.): 51 mph (via WeatherBug)

Trees, power lines down in tornado’s path

Montgomery County fire officials were responding to reports of trees and wires down across the county, specifically in areas of Bethesda, Rockville and Colesville, where there were reports of a tornado touching down about 4 p.m. As of 5 p.m., authorities had no reports of significant structural damage to buildings, said Assistant Chief Scott Graham, a Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman.

County officials expected to be responding to calls for live wires and fallen trees for the next few hours, Graham said.

County police responded to several vehicle accidents  but reported no major road closures.

— Clarence Williams

Bay Bridge reopens

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge reopened in both directions about 5 p.m., according to Kelly Melhem, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Drivers heading that way should expect to encounter lingering delays due to the congestion that built up during the closure.

Outages top 60,000 in region

More than 60,000 people were without power as of 5 p.m. after quick-moving storms rushed through the region. Here are the latest numbers:

Pepco: 41,171

Domionion: 21,610

BGE (Montgomery and Prince George’s County): 3,091

Track the number of power cuts with our outage tracker.

Video: Storm slams the D.C. area

District residents captured video as the storm swept across the area Thursday.

Bay Bridge closed in both directions

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is closed in both directions until the storm passes through that area, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

More stunning cloudscapes and an amazing video

Here are three more great sky shots:

And watch this video of the storm moving into the Clarendon area:

Severe thunderstorm watch canceled from District west

With storms now rapidly exiting the eastern suburbs and about to cross the Chesapeake Bay, the severe thunderstorm watch has been dropped for the District and points west, and should be dropped for the rest of the area in the next hour or so.

All tornado warnings have been dropped. The only active warning is for the last area of severe thunderstorms in Anne Arundel and southern Baltimore counties. This remains in effect until 5 p.m.

Montgomery middle school cancels ceremony

The onrushing storm led Westland Middle School in Montgomery County to cancel a promotion ceremony for eighth-graders that had been scheduled for Thursday evening at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

“The tornado warnings, flash flood warnings, high winds and heavy rains have influenced this decision,” a school administrator told families in an automated phone call and e-mail at 4:11 p.m. “We decided to err on the side of caution.”

— Nick Anderson

Incredible cloud structures from storms

We’ve been receiving unbelievable photos of the rotating storms as they’ve zipped through the area. Some examples:

BWI advises travelers, workers to seek shelter

Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport is instructing travelers and airport employees to move to the lowest possible levels of the airport or to seek shelter inside an interior room like a bathroom.

The tornado that was confirmed on the ground near Colesville is moving east, and BWI Airport is one of the the locations that could be impacted, according to the National Weather Service.

Rockville man: ‘It came through like a tornado’

Robert Hausman, a financial adviser working on the 17th floor of the tallest building in Rockville, evacuated his office shortly before 4 p.m. as the windows shook and the sky darkened.

“You could see the Tysons Corner buildings and then you saw this black cloud and Tysons disappeared under the cloud,” Hausman said.

Hausman said the darkness moved in quickly. “It was like a smoke cloud. Everything was gone. You could not see out the window.” It was like being in a fire, he said.

Hausman took cover in a stairwell of his building in downtown Rockville. “It came through like a tornado,” he said.

— Donna St. George

Intense storms plowing through eastern suburbs

As of 4:15 p.m., locations from the District and points west are in the clear. But dangerous storms, some capable of producing tornadoes are racing through D.C. eastern suburbs and northeast to around Baltimore. This area is covered in tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings. All of this weather will clear the region in the next 30 minutes and and the threat of severe weather will be effectively over area-wide.

More than 20,000 without power in N.Va.

Dominion Power reports 15,099 customers without power in Loudoun County as of 4 p.m.

Other areas with more than 1,000 outages include Arlington County, with 1,129 in the dark, Fairfax County with 3,674 out and 1,121 in Spotsylvania.

Track power cuts across the area with our outage tracker.

–Pat Sullivan

 

Tornado warning for northern Prince George’s, western Anne Arundel counties

Tornado warning  for northern Prince George’s and western Anne Arundel counties until 4:45 p.m. A storm capable of producing a tornado was near Cheverly at 4:07 p.m. moving east at 55 mph. In its potential path: Woodmore, Mitchellville, Prince George’s Stadium, Bowie, Crofton and Odenton.

Seek shelter immediately if you’re in its path.

Storms down power lines in Loudoun

As a band of heavy storms made their way through Loudoun County, there were scattered reports of downed power lines in the Leesburg area and in the eastern part of the county, according to county spokesperson Anna Nissinen.

As of 4 p.m., emergency personnel had not received any reports of injuries, accidents or property damage resulting from the storms, she said.

“It could be that the power outages will be the biggest thing here,” she said. “But we’ll see what happens.”

Metro warns Red Line trains could be delayed

4:30 p.m. Update:

The Red Line speed restrictions have been lifted, according to Metro.

Earlier: 

Metro warns riders that Red Line trains could experience delays due to speed restrictions slowing trains traveling above ground. Based on forecasts and warnings as of 4 p.m., such restrictions weren’t expected for other lines, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Confirmed tornado on the ground in Montgomery County

Via the National Weather Service:

* AT 353 PM EDT… A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS REPORTED NEAR COLESVILLE…
OR NEAR OLNEY.. .AND WAS MOVING EAST AT 50 MPH. THIS TORNADO HAS
BEEN CONFIRMED BY COUNTY OFFICIALS.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE…
LAUREL…
COLUMBIA…
FORT MEADE…
SEVERN…
ELKRIDGE…
ARBUTUS…
BWI AIRPORT…
FULTON…

The tornado warning for this storm continues through 4:30 p.m. and includes eastern Montgomery county, southern Baltimore County, northern Prince George’s County, northwest Anne Arundel County and southeast Howard County.

Pepco reports 33,000 power outages

More than 33,000 Pepco customers are without power right now, with most of those outages appearing about 4 p.m.

 “Those outages are all in Montgomery County,” said Marcus Beal, a spokesman for Pepco. “It looks like Montgomery County is really taking the brunt of this.”
Track power cuts across the area with our outage tracker.

Severe storm hitting D.C. and northern suburbs now

Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings (central Montgomery and southern Howard counties) remain in effect through 4:15 p.m. Montgomery County is currently catching the brunt of this storm, although the tail of the storm is socking northern Arlington and will pass through the northern half of the District in the next 20 minutes or so.

A new tornado warning has been issued for eastern Montgomery, southern Baltimore, northern Prince George’s, northwest Anne Arundel and southeast Howard counties until 4:30 p.m.

Tornado warning update: Montgomery and Howard counties

Tornado warning remains in effect until 4 p.m. in western Montgomery County.  A storm capable of producing a tornado was located near Landsdowne at 3:33 p.m. and was moving east at 30 mph.  In potential path: Poolesville, Dawsonville, Darnestown and Boyds.

The warning has been extended east into central Montgomery County and southern Howard County until 4:15 p.m., and includes Rockville, Aspen Hill, Olney and Colesville.

Take cover immediately in this area.

Severe thunderstorm warning for much of D.C. area

Radar view at 3:36 p.m. (Weather Underground)
Radar view at 3:36 p.m. (Weather Underground)

A dangerous thunderstorm is pushing through the immediate D.C. area from west to east.

A severe thunderstorm warning covers much of the region along and north of I-66, including the District, in its entirety.

Damaging gusts to 70 mph are possible in this storm.

Video: The calm before the storm

This video shows winds whipping up before the storm this morning.

Tornado warning from Leesburg to Poolesville

A tornado warning has been issued for central Loudoun, northern Fairfax and western Montgomery counties until 4 p.m. At 3:22 p.m., doppler radar indicated a possible tornado near Leesburg moving east at 35 mph.

Leesburg, Landsdowne, Poolesville, Countryside, Lowes Island and Boyds are in the path of this storm.

Take cover immediately if you live in this area, on the lowest floor, in an interior room away from windows.

Tornado warning for parts of Southern Maryland

A tornado warning has been issued for southern Charles County, Central St. Mary’s County and Southern Calvert County until 3:45 p.m.

A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was near Wicomico River at 3:15 p.m. moving northeast at 55 mph.  In its potential path: Leonardtown, Hollywood, Lusby and Calvert Cliffs.

Take cover immediately if you’re in the path of this storm.

Tornado warning King George County, Va.

Dangerous storms are exploding in central Virginia and the northern neck of Virginia and headed for southern Maryland and southeast Virginia.

A tornado warning is in effect for King George County until 3:30 p.m.  At 2:58 p.m., radar indicated a possible tornado over northern Carolina County, nine miles south of Potomac Creek, moving northeast at 50 mph.

This potentially tornadic storm may head into St. Mary’s County, Md.

Radar imagery illustrates just how nasty this complex of storms in central Virginia is, below:

Radar grab from 3:00 p.m. (Weather Underground)
Radar grab from 3 p.m. (Weather Underground)

Photos: ‘Panels just flew off … the courthouse’

The D.C. area has been spared the brunt of the afternoon storms so far, but parts of central and southern Virginia are getting hammered. Wind damage and downed trees have been reported in the Roanoke area, while a tornado warning has been issued in the  Fredericksburg area.

 

Severe storms closing in on D.C. area

Radar capture at 2:54 p.m. (Weather Underground)
Radar capture at 2:54 p.m. (Weather Underground)

An intense, fast-moving thunderstorm is racing into western Loudoun and northern Fauquier counties at about 45 mph.

A large (in area coverage) severe thunderstorm warning is in effect for western Montgomery, northwest Prince William, Loudoun and northwest Fauquier counties until 3:45 p.m.  This storm is capable of producing gusts to 60 mph.

Its movement is very fast and will affect much of the immediate metro area between now and 4:30 p.m.

The following locations are in the path of this storm: Bluemont, Brambleton, Leesburg and Ashburn.

Particularly dangerous thunderstorm watch in SE Va.

Particularly dangerous situation severe thunderstorm watch coverage area (National Weather Service)
Particularly dangerous situation severe thunderstorm watch coverage area (National Weather Service)

A very rare, particularly dangerous situation severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for southeast Virginia, the southern Delmarva and eastern North Carolina.  This includes the Richmond and Norfolk areas.

Given high levels of atmospheric instability, the National Weather Service expects numerous significant damaging wind gusts to 80 mph, several very large hail reports (up to three inches in diameter) and a few tornadoes in the watch area.

Tornado warning for Fredericksburg

A TORNADO WARNING is in effect for Spotsylvania County, the city of Fredericksburg and western Stafford County until 3 p.m. Radar indicated a possible tornado about 15 miles northeast of Mineral, moving northeast at 45 mph.

If you’re in the path of this storm, take cover immediately in the lowest level of your house/building, away from windows, with as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.

UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: A funnel cloud was reported by storm spotter half to three-quarters of the way to the ground very near Fredericksburg at 2:34.

Severe thunderstorm warning for Winchester

The line of storms for D.C. to watch is exiting West Virginia and now bearing down on the I-81 corridor.

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Winchester and adjacent areas to the south and west until 3:15 p.m. The storm is capable of producing hail up to the size of quarters and 60 mph gusts. It’s zipping to the east at 45 mph, meaning it could be encroaching on D.C.’s western suburbs in about an hour.

Radar snapshot as of 2:20 p.m. (RadarScope)
Radar snapshot as of 2:20 p.m. (RadarScope)

Travelers wait out storm at National Airport

At Reagan National Airport, the arrival and departure board already reflected the impact of the early morning storm, with delays and cancellations for destinations ranging from Buffalo to Detroit.

Brian Magee, 27, of Rochester was caught in the storm that swept across the Northeast early in the day. His 8 a.m. flight out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York was delayed two hours. But the delay was just the beginning of a rough morning. The plane flew at 5,000 feet for the entire 55-minute trip, said Magee, who is a pilot himself. The ride? Incredibly bumpy.

“I’ve never been on a flight like that and I fly a lot,” he said, shaking his head. “It was rough. And they kept warning us: ‘If you stand up, it is at your own risk.’ ”

In Terminal B at Reagan National, JoEllyn Fountain and her daughter Alyssa snacked on tuna fish and crackers. Their flight to Fresno, Calif., wasn’t scheduled to leave until 5 p.m. so they weren’t sure what their fate would be, but they were leaving nothing to chance. The pair packed an extra change of clothes and snacks in their carry-on bags in case they ended up stuck at the airport.

“I pray that the storms will not happen, otherwise we’re sleeping at the airport,” Fountain, 46, said, patting the armrest on the black airport chair.

— Lori Aratani

Severe thunderstorm warning for Fredericksburg

Storms are starting to erupt in central Virginia.

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning until 2:45 p.m. for Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County and southern Stafford County for a storm capable of producing ping-pong ball-sized hail and damaging winds in excess of 60 mph.

Scary skies in D.C.

The skies appeared dark and dangerous this morning as the line of thunderstorms – which originated in the Midwest – descended on Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, the storms weakened and the hype was worse than their bite.

We’ve compiled a great set of reader photos from social media, which you can view here: Scary skies over Washington, D.C. (PHOTOS)

Here are a couple samples:

Watching strong storms in West Virginia

A fairly intense line of storms is developing in eastern West Virginia. It’s this squall line that may produce very heavy rain, the potential for some damaging winds and hail in the region between 3 and 6 p.m.

Here’s a radar snapshot from about 1:40 p.m.

(National Weather Service)
(National Weather Service)

We’ll be monitoring these storms closely.

Flight delays remain in Northeast

Flights leaving airports from Washington to New York are still experiencing delays. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, flights departing Reagan National Airport are delayed up to an hour, while flights leaving Dulles International Airport are delayed up to 30 minutes. Heavy rain has also resulted in delays at LaGuardia, JFK, Newark and Philadelphia airports. Delays at some of these airports could create problems throughout the aviation system, so make sure to check with your airline before heading out.

Storm risk downgraded

It may seem like a confusing message, but just as the National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the region, it downgraded the risk of severe storms from moderate to slight.


Thunderstorm risk has been lowered from moderate (red color) to slight (yellow color).(National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center)

The rationale for the downgrade is an overall lack of instability largely due to the storms that passed through this morning. They deposited a (relatively) cold pool of air over the region, so the atmosphere is not as juiced as it might be.  Nevertheless, as I indicated in an earlier update, some sun may still  emerge early this afternoon (it’s already doing so in central and southern Virginia, where the storm risk is higher) which will help the atmosphere recover and destabilize a bit more.

In short, the odds of a widespread, damaging severe weather outbreak are not as high as they once were, but hazardous storms are still possible, with the greatest risk south and southeast of the District.

You should continue to pay attention to the progress of developing storms and any warnings issued.

Severe thunderstorm watch until 7 p.m.

Area covered by Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Area covered by Severe Thunderstorm Watch

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for much of the Washington, D.C. metro region until 7 p.m.

It highlights the following possible impacts:

* Several large hail events with a few very large hail events to two inches in diameter possible
* A few damaging wind gusts to 70 mph possible
* A few tornadoes possible

SPC says the greatest risk of severe storms is east of the mountains and south of a boundary in south central Virginia (where there is greater instability for storm development)

Cloud cover eroding, may fuel storms

A key ingredient for severe storm development this afternoon is instability. It is required for the air to rapidly ascend and help build towering thunderstorm clouds.

In order to get instability, skies need to at least partially clear to allow sunshine to heat up the land surface. When the land surface is heated, like turning up the heat in a sauce pan, it forces the air to rise and then thunderstorms can erupt.

There are signs that skies are starting to clear, especially south of the District, priming the atmosphere for potentially explosive thunderstorm development.

Watch this recent satellite loop of the cloud cover thinning out, particularly in Virginia.

Zoo employee struck by lightning in Md.

A zoo employee was struck by lightning in northeast Maryland during this morning’s first band of thunderstorms, fire officials say.

The 18-year-old girl had been feeding animals at Plumpton Park Zoo in Rising Sun. She was near a tall tree as the first storm clouds rolled in, a Rising Sun fire official said. The woman was transported to a hospital north of Baltimore. Her condition was not immediately available.

— Aaron C. Davis

New severe thunderstorm watch likely

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (SPC) says it’s likely to issue a severe thunderstorm watch for the region in the next hour or two (bulletin posted at 11:38 a.m.).

(National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center)
(National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center)

It writes:

Threat for damaging winds…large hail…and possibly an isolated tornado will increase across eastern WV…VA…central/eastern Md…Del…northern NC…and northeast TN from midday into the evening hours.

SPC also plans to upgrade areas in southeast Virginia and northern North Carolina into its moderate risk zone for severe weather.

Major flight delays in the Northeast

If you’re flying today, you should be ready for delays and possible cancellations. The Federal Aviation Administration is reporting heavy delays at airports from Washington to New York. Delays are reported at the Washington region’s three major airports: Reagan National (DCA), Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall (BWI). In addition, there are delays in Philadelphia and at the New York area airports. So definitely check with your airline before heading to the airport.

Latest forecast: Storm potential from 3 to 8 p.m.

According to the latest forecasts, the main window for potential storms is between 3 and 8 p.m. Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang reports that thunderstorms and scattered showers are possible before that. The strongest punch is expected along and east of Interstate 95, he writes.

The forecast warns that in addition to strong rain and winds, the region could be in for hail and tornadoes. Head here for the complete forecast.

Metro prepares for storm


(Katherine Frey for The Washington Post)

Metro officials are preparing for potentially severe storms, extending some employee shifts and setting up equipment at locations throughout the system. My colleague Dana Hedgpeth reports that the transit agency is putting out light towers, emergency generators, mobile pumps and other equipment. Bus riders should also be aware that flooding could lead to detours. For more, head to Dr. Gridlock.

Prince George’s County schools to close at 1 p.m.

Prince George’s County public school offices and schools will close at 1 p.m. due to the threat of the severe storm. School officials also have cancelled all afternoon and evening activities.

— Ovetta Wiggins

Morning storms exiting the region

The first wave of storms are moving out of the D.C. region after a dark and cloudy Thursday morning commute. Rain that fell in the District and its suburbs largely subsided by 10 a.m., though a tail of storms dragged through southern Maryland for a good while after that.

All eyes now turn to the cluster of strong storms forecasters say could hit the region during the afternoon and evening commute. Heavy rains could lead to flooding, while high winds may take down trees and wires. We’ll have the latest update from the Capital Weather Gang here shortly.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Jason Samenow · June 13, 2013