Area Works to Recover From Storm Damages

Residents begin to clean up following Wednesday's violent storm.
By Maria Glod, Christy Goodman and Lexie Verdon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 6, 2008; 1:24 PM

More than 40,000 homes and businesses remained without power this afternoon despite round-the-clock efforts by utility crews following the violent string of thunderstorms that struck the Washington area Wednesday afternoon.

Montgomery and Prince George's counties reopened their school systems today, although Sligo Middle School in Montgomery was still closed. Fairfax County, which was forced to close 27 schools midday yesterday because of power problems, said six elementary schools and Langley High School would not open this morning.

A two-alarm fire overnight at a Fairfax County apartment building without power was blamed on an unattended candle, said Lt. Raúl G. Castillo, a spokesman for the fire department. Two people were hospitalized following that blaze with injuries that were not believed to be life threatening, he said.

Power companies said the vast majority of people who were affected by the storms have their electricity repaired, and they hope to have nearly all restored today. But some scattered areas may not have power until tomorrow.

That power will come in handy today, when many families will be hoping to run air conditioning as a sweltering weekend approaches. A high pressure system over the Washington area will usher in summer conditions -- high heat and humidity. The National Weather Service reports that temperatures today could reach near 90 degrees, and it has issued an excessive heat watch for the weekend.

Yet those forecasts of higher temperatures, raised concerns for utility companies that air conditioners working overtime, coupled with outage restorations, could cause more problems, said Le-Ha Anderson, a Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman. She said customers without power should turn off all appliances except for one lamp. After power is restored, she advised turning back on "only those they need, and then don't crank their air conditioners down too low."

"We don't want to overload the system," Anderson said.

The fire ths morning at the Monticello Garden apartments in the 7200 block of Parkwood Court in Falls Church was caused by a candle near a bed, he said. A woman who lived in the apartment was taken to the Washington Hospital Center with burns, but she was alert while being transported, Castillo said. Her son, the other occupant of the apartment, was not injured.

Another person from one of the other 10 units in the building was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital. Six people were assisted from balconies and other parts of the building by firefighters, according to Castillo. Residents said they had been without power since the storm hit Wednesday.

Castillo said the blaze today was a reminder to people without electricity to use great care with lighted candles and portable generators, which if not properly ventilated can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

From Chesapeake Beach to Herndon, residents yesterday surveyed damage to houses battered by falling limbs and trees. The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado with gusts up to 85 mph touched down in Chesapeake Beach, peeling siding and portions of roofs from several houses and uprooting trees. A small tornado also hit Clarke County, Va., and officials continued to check reports that the storm spawned tornadoes in Fairfax County, Falls Church and Southern Maryland.

In Anne Arundel County, authorities said a 90-year-old woman was critically injured when her home caught fire in the storm. Four men working for a Maryland State Highway Administration contractor in Calvert County were injured by flying debris, and two remained hospitalized yesterday afternoon.

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