Storms push through Washington region, felling trees and knocking out power

April 16, 2011

Rain and wind lashed the Washington region Saturday as the dangerous weather system that brought death and destruction elsewhere in the United States pushed through the city and its surroundings.

Two or three tornado warnings were issued for portions of the region. By late Saturday, it was not immediately clear whether any actual tornadoes had touched down.

However, effects of a powerful storm were everywhere. Trees toppled onto cars and houses, water rose in low-lying areas and electricity was cut off to thousands of homes and businesses.

As the storm’s toll in the South was reported, the Washington area was alerted continually about the possibility of tornadoes or the approach of strong thunderstorms.

In one urgent warning, residents of part of Carroll County, Md., were told Saturday evening by the National Weather Service to “take cover . . . Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building . . . Protect yourself from flying debris.”

It was not certain that a tornado had touched down in the county, but accounts suggested that a fierce storm had passed through. In one place, a barn was pushed off its foundation and onto Route 27. Many trees were down, officials said.

No immediate reports of severe storm injuries were received in the Washington area. But a preliminary account attributed one death to high water in Waynesboro, Va. A tornado was reported in Augusta County, Va.

Around 7 p.m. after rain and wind ripped across Loudoun County, a witness told the weather service that a large sign had gone down in Leesburg, where trees had been felled near South King Street and Davis Avenue.

Barbara Corbett, who lives nearby, got just a glimpse of the powerful storm. “All I heard was the wind blowing and the hard rain,” she said. “It’s been raining so hard I haven’t been out.”

After hearing a crash, she said, she opened her door. “Trees were bending and stuff,” she said. The wind blew hard and she shut the door and stayed inside.

Trees not only bent but fell over a wide area. A large tree came down on a house in the 9800 block of Kensington Parkway in the Kensington area of Montgomery County, authorities said. Another tree came down on a house near Tilbury Street and Maple Avenue in Bethesda.

In the District, authorities said trees fell on cars on Champlain Street in Adams Morgan and a house on Eads Street NE.

At one point in the early evening, Pepco reported that 3,800 homes and businesses in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the District were without power. Dominion Virginia power reported about 3,600 Northern Virginia outages.

BG&E said about 35, 000 of its customers across Maryland lost power for at least part of the day. By about 10 p.m., it said, power had been restored to 19,000.

The storm came in waves, driving rapidly northeastward with thunder and lightning as well as wind and rain. At area airports, flights scheduled to depart for New York were held on the ground for hours.

A commenter on The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang Web had a close encounter with lightning.“The crack made me scream,” the commenter wrote of a bolt that came within 500 feet. “I was definitely NOT expecting to see a lightning bolt pass between the two buildings.”

“The wind is insane in Old Town [Alexandria] right now!” another commenter posted about 5:20 p.m. “Not a lot of rain but the trees look ready to snap.”

As Alexandria’s lower King Street flooded, the Mai Thai restaurant kept dry with sandbags. “We are still open,” host Phanuwat Janthiama said. But he added, “It might be big trouble for customers to come.”

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