40,000 Customers Lose Power in Windstorm

By Martin Weil and Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 15, 2006

Electricity was knocked out to more than 40,000 homes and businesses in the Washington region yesterday as winds gusted to more than 50 mph and the first snow of the new year fell in a number of spots.

Seasons appeared to shift in the course of a single day, as temperatures plunged within hours from the springlike 60s to more wintry readings in the 30s, and wind chills made conditions seem even harsher.

Thunderstorms, more common in spring and summer, raked parts of the area early yesterday. Winds connected with those storms damaged buildings in Warrenton, in Fauquier County, according to reports made to the National Weather Service.

"Just a huge roar came through," M. Scott Taylor, chief of the Warrenton Volunteer Fire Company, said last night. "There was actually enough wind to move a dumpster about seven feet from muddy grass onto pavement. There's actually a trail imprint where the skids are on the bottom in the mud."

More than 2,500 homes and businesses in Fauquier were without electricity for part of yesterday, according to Dominion Virginia Power.

In all, about 35,000 customers were without power in the Northern Virginia area at 9:30 p.m., the utility said.

In Maryland, the largest number of outages at that hour appeared to be in Montgomery County, where the figure was more than 4,400, according to Pepco.

Earlier, in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said more than 2,000 homes were affected. BGE also reported about 1,000 homes and businesses in the dark in Howard County.

Pepco said fewer than 100 D.C. customers lost power.

Some of the day's biggest gusts were reported at Reagan National Airport, where a peak gust of 54 mph was reported about 3 p.m. and a similar gust of 53 mph was reported at 9.

The Weather Service said the fierce winds were the result of a form of atmospheric imbalance created by a low-pressure system off the New Jersey and New England coasts and a high-pressure system that was arriving from the west.

The contrasts in pressure help produce strong winds.

The Weather Service issued a high-wind warning yesterday afternoon for the Washington area as the gusts persisted, felling trees, snapping branches and flinging clouds of grit through city streets.

Winds are expected to diminish today, although they will remain strong.

A tornado of minimal size was reported in King and Queen County, Va.

Light snow, not enough to stick, fell late in the day at many places in the area, including Leesburg, Dulles International Airport and National Airport.

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