Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that 3,300 Dominion Virginia Power customers remained without power from last week's storm.

After Heat Leaves 2 Dead, Thunderstorms Do Damage

Residents begin to clean up following Wednesday's violent storm.
By Jonathan Mummolo and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 12, 2008

A stifling four-day heat wave claimed two lives before finally subsiding Tuesday, only to give way to severe thunderstorms across the Washington region. The storms, which included hail and high winds, sparked fires and toppled trees and power lines, officials said.

One lightning strike went through a teenager in a horse barn in Loudoun County. The barn caught fire, but the woman -- and the horses -- escaped unscathed.

The storms capped several days of weather-related havoc after violent storms pummeled the region last week, leaving thousands without power as oppressive heat set in.

Yesterday, Maryland authorities announced the year's first heat-related deaths, both of which occurred Monday. In Prince George's County, a 65-year-old man collapsed while mowing his lawn. Anne Arundel County authorities found a 79-year-old man dead in his home, where the temperature was more than 90 degrees with no fans or air conditioning, said Karen Black, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"They did have underlying conditions," Black said, noting that both men died from hyperthermia and complications from heart disease.

Tuesday's storms reached the region's northwestern suburbs, including Loudoun and Montgomery counties, about 4 p.m. and continued until about 7 p.m., with winds topping 65 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Additional thunderstorms from the southwest reached Fairfax and Prince William counties about 7:30 p.m. and the District about 8 p.m. before pushing off to the east after 9 p.m.

Dominion Virginia Power reported about 24,000 customers without power in northern and western Virginia; power was restored to all by 1 p.m. yesterday, Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said.

The storm also caused outages for about 6,000 Pepco customers. Most of those had power restored by yesterday afternoon, Pepco spokesman Bob Dobkin said.

"The crews had been on 12-hour shifts since last week and they just continued on through the night," Dobkin said. "It's been something."

Near the Loudoun community of Neersville, equestrian student Maggie Nichols, 18, was feeding horses in a barn Tuesday afternoon when she saw a giant flash, then felt a jolt. She stood stunned for a moment before realizing what had happened.

"We heard a loud crack, and you could see a huge glowing fireball at my hand, and then it went out through my other elbow," Nichols said, describing how the electric current struck the weathervane atop the barn before traveling down to the stall door and shocking but not harming her.

Within minutes, a fire, fueled by hay, spread throughout the barn, she said. She and other farm workers led the barn's 18 horses, including two foals, to safety.

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