“It seemed to come all at once, fast and furious,” said Lynn Steeley, a mother of two in Olney who was working at home when the rain began. Then the phone rang; it was a robo-call saying dismissal at her son’s elementary school would be postponed until the weather cleared.
She had braced for worse. “I was honestly expecting it to rain until 7 tonight,” she said. “It was less severe and shorter than expected.”
Two Montgomery County schools, Sligo Middle School and Blair Ewing Center, were without power Friday morning and will be closed for the day, officials said. All other public schools in the county are open.
Thursday’s storm was but a faint echo of last year’s derecho, one of the most destructive thunderstorms to hit the Washington region in recent memory. That June 29 storm had winds of 60 to 80 mph, uprooted hundreds of trees and left more than 1 million area residents without power.
The storm Thursday carried just a hint of that menace.
Financial adviser Robert Hausman said he took refuge in a stairwell at his 17th-floor office in Rockville 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,” he said. “It was like a smoke cloud. Everything was gone. You could not see out the window.”
During the morning’s first band of thunderstorms, a zoo employee was struck by lightning in northeast Maryland, fire officials said. The 19-year-old woman had been feeding animals at Plumpton Park Zoo in Rising Sun. The woman was taken to a hospital north of Baltimore, and details about her condition were not available.
In West Laurel, at least one home was heavily damaged by a falling tree in the afternoon. Minutes before the storm roared into the Prince George’s County town, Zita Bowley, 85, told her daughter, Yvonne, to get her clothes and other essentials. A newscaster had just reported that a tornado might be headed to their area.
Within minutes, they heard what Susan Sumner, a neighbor, described as a “magnificent crash.” A huge poplar tree had been uprooted and had slammed into the rear of the blue rambler, creating a gaping hole in the bedroom and hallway.
“I’m very thankful,” Bowley said as tears welled in her eyes. “I thought that was it. . . . It is as if the ground shifted beneath my feet, and in a way it has.”
The house, where Bowley has lived for 59 years, is uninhabitable. She and her daughter, who has Down syndrome, were staying Thursday with Sumner. “We’re just fortunate that no one was injured,” Sumner said. “Things can be fixed.”