Tornado warnings were issued across the D.C. suburbs early Thursday morning. Fast-moving bands of storms packed high winds and torrential rains. A funnel cloud formed over Point of Rocks in Frederick County shortly before 7 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, but there were no reports of tornadoes touching down in the immediate area Thursday morning.
There were widespread reports of damaged trees, including one that fell across Route 109 in Barnesville and another that landed on an electric line in Middleburg, according to the Weather Service.
Fauquier County schools were delayed by two hours and Prince William County schools canceled outdoor activities. The storms were causing flight delays of up to 90 minutes at Reagan National and Dulles International airports.
The remaining tornado warnings expired at 9:45 a.m., but a tornado watch is in place for the entire region until 3 p.m.
Farther south and west, the storms caused major destruction. Four of the fatalities and most of the injuries occurred when what appeared to be a tornado hit a mobile home park, truck stop and apartment complex in Washington County, Virginia Department of Emergency Management officials said. Storms ripped through a subdivision in Shenandoah County, damaging several homes.
As evening approached in Washington on Wednesday, skies grew ominously dark, rain poured down and funnel clouds were spotted at places miles apart. Winds rose, trees toppled, hail spattered the ground, and it seemed that the area was on the verge of true peril.
“It was a funnel cloud at the treetops,” said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, reporting what he saw in the Morningside area of the county, near Andrews Air Force Base. “It actually went over top of me.”
But, Bashoor said, the funnel never seemed to touch down.
But incidents throughout the region attracted widespread attention.
“The winds all of a sudden picked up,” Bashoor said, and tree branches seemed to rise into the air, amid sheets of rain.
Late Wednesday night, powerful winds, possibly from a tornado, were blamed for damage to a building at the Bristow Center, a shopping center in western Prince William County.
The Morningside area of Prince George’s appeared to be one of the most severely affected in the metropolitan area. Road signs fell over, along with swing sets in yards. Tree branches and roofing shingles littered Allentown Road, near the Air Force base. Not far away, a tree crashed onto a house, according to the National Weather Service.