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Tree-toppled power line falls on Metro tracks, trapping riders, causing delays

Severe thunderstorms felled trees and power lines across much of the Washington area Sunday afternoon, killing Four people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
By Stephanie Lee, Luke Rosiak and Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 30, 2010

A live power line fell on Metro tracks on the Red Line on Thursday, confining passengers inside a train in Silver Spring and causing delays during the evening rush as the week's second thunderstorm drenched the Washington region.

For more than 2 1/2 hours, 41 riders were stuck in the train with a live electrical wire underneath it after a falling tree toppled power lines onto Red Line and train tracks north of the Silver Spring Station, causing a flash of fire and an audible explosion.

The incident, which began just before 3:50 p.m., cut off Red Line service at Silver Spring and halted MARC and Amtrak service.

About 6:15 p.m., a "rescue train" pulled up in front of the stranded train, and passengers stepped directly from their wire-tangled train onto the other train. The riders then returned to the Forest Glen Station one stop north.

Service was restored by about 8 p.m., after Pepco deactivated the live wire and began making repairs. Aside from the downed wires that slowed the commute home for many, damage from the storm appeared to be minimal. No injuries were immediately reported, said Andre Francis, a Pepco spokesman.

"Nobody has been injured, and we like it that way," he said.

The delays caused by the storm, which packed gusts of up to 60 mph, dealt yet another blow to exasperated commuters across the region. Near the Silver Spring Station, highway traffic was clogged and traffic lights were out.

"It's horrifying, absolutely horrifying," said Juan Spearman, 25, who commutes to an art school in Rosslyn. The Columbia resident waited 45 minutes for a bus outside the Silver Spring Station Thursday evening. "I can't get home."

Although Thursday's storm was not nearly as severe as Sunday's, it did set back Pepco's power restoration efforts. An estimated 15,000 customers experienced outages Thursday, in addition to 7,000 existing cases. At 9 p.m., the utility company reported that more than 13,000 were experiencing outages, including about 10,000 in Montgomery County.

Virginia once again escaped the brunt of the storm Thursday as it did on Sunday, with Dominion reporting about 100 outages in the state's northern region at 9 p.m.

"The good news is that we've got all the crews from the restoration effort," said Bob Hainey, a Pepco spokesman. "Crews are out there, continuing to work around the clock and driving the numbers down even from the latest storm, even with the problem in Silver Spring."

Pepco brought in additional repair crews -- bringing the total number of workers to about 600 -- from as far as Ohio and Pennsylvania to restore power.

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