High winds lead to power outages, road closures in Washington region

Thousands of customers across the Washington area were still dealing with having no electricity Thursday, after mighty gusts of winds knocked down power lines overnight and crews from area utility companies worked to restore service.

Widespread outages were reported in the District, Maryland and Virginia Wednesday night, but those numbers continued to drop Thursday morning. In Northern Virginia, about 2,100 customers were without power just before noon. About 1,100 customers in Montgomery County, about 1,800 customers in Prince George’s County and 87 customers in the District had no power.

One school in the District — Hearst Elementary in Northwest — was closed Thursday because of an outage.

Utility companies began reporting outages in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs around 8 p.m. Wednesday night and crews worked overnight to restore power.

“The wind gusts of over 50 miles per hour brings down tree limbs [on power lines] and that causes outages,” said Marcus Beal, a Pepco spokesman.


See the number of power outages in Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the District.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang said temperatures Thursday were expected to move slowly into the 30s by midday and afternoon. The “nasty wind chills,” with gusts as high out of the northwest as 40 mph in the early morning, eased into the single digits.

For a look at how cold it was Thursday morning, the National Weather Service reported the temperature at Reagan National Airport was 24 degrees at 9 a.m. In Anchorage, Alaska, it was 29.

The blustery winds caused damage throughout the region.

Fierce winds tore off the brick veneer of an Alexandria apartment building early Thursday morning, prompting Alexandria fire officials to usher residents out of the structure and onto buses because of concerns that the roof might blow off next, authorities said.

That scenario never came to pass, and residents were expected to be allowed back into their homes later Thursday, Battalion Chief Tony Washington said.. He said officials were merely concerned because when the brick veneer came down, it left the rafters of the roof exposed to the wind.

“It was real windy,” Washington said.

The brick veneer of the mid-rise building in the 1700 block of Commonwealth Avenue came down about 5:25 a.m., damaging a few cars that were parked outside, Washington said. He said no one was hurt, and the building did not seem to be at risk for collapse. The veneer of bricks, he said, was like a “siding” that did not contribute to the stability of the building.

“The wind got up underneath that brick and tore that brick down,” Washington said.

Washington said fire officials called in DASH buses so residents could keep out of the cold and also offered them temporary shelter, but no one took them up on it. He said the building had 19 apartments, though he was not sure precisely how many people lived there.

And a tree fell on top of a house in Silver Spring, but no injuries were reported.

The strong winds also caused troubles on roadways during the Thursday morning commute. In Laurel, Route 198 was closed for a bit in both directions between Van Dusen Road and 11th Street because of a downed power pole. Part of Route 7 in Leesburg near Market Street was closed for some time for downed power lines.

In Montgomery County, police were directing traffic at points along New Hampshire Avenue because of power outages at stop lights.

Restrictions were put in place Thursday for traveling on the Bay Bridge in Maryland: The speed limit was reduced to 40 miles per hour for vehicles and no empty tractor trailers or box trucks were allowed on the bridge.

National Airport had a ground stop Wednesday night because of the weather, but it was lifted Thursday morning.

Also Wednesday night, the Capitol Dome went dark briefly. The lights at the Capitol came on shortly before 9 p.m., after about 30 minutes in which it appeared that most of the building’s electricity had failed.

The Office of the Architect of the Capitol said high winds caused electrical power surges at the Capitol starting at about 8:30 p.m., said Matt Guilfoyle, a spokesman. Officials made repairs and power was restored about 9 p.m., he said.

Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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