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  •   Storms Bring Outages, But Not Enough Rain

    By Saundra Torry and Graeme Zielinski
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Monday, August 16, 1999; Page B1

    The gusty thunderstorms that pelted the region with quick, violent rains on Saturday did little to alleviate the drought and left lingering power outages yesterday in parts of suburban Maryland.

    Anne Arundel County was hardest hit both by rain and outages, as about 110,000 customers lost power at the height of Saturday afternoon's storm. About 10,000 remained in the dark yesterday, said Angela Walters, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, about 8,000 customers lost power Saturday night, according to Dorothy Terry, a spokeswoman for Pepco. About 50 customers, many of them in Bethesda, remained without power yesterday.

    In Virginia, thousands were without power after the storm, according to a regional manager for Virginia Power, who said he would not have a more specific count for days.

    The heavy rains came with pockets of hail and whipped through the area far too quickly to provide the long drenching the region needs to rebound from the drought, National Weather Service meteorologists said. Reagan National Airport reported one-third of an inch of rain, and only Anne Arundel received more than two inches, in spots such as Riviera Beach. Some weather reporting stations across the region received no measurable rainfall.

    "We needed a whale [of a rain], and instead we got a guppy," said meteorologist Andy Woodcock, of the National Weather Service.

    Woodcock said the area's rainfall has lagged more than 14 inches below normal in the past year. A "hit-and-miss" summer thunderstorm, he said, is not enough to make up for that. The remedy is either several tropical storms or a low-pressure system sitting off Norfolk or Cape Hatteras, N.C., that could help provide slow, prolonged rains, he added.

    The area's next likely shot at much-needed rain will be Wednesday, forecasters said. Until then, they predict clear, sunny skies.

    Despite its short duration, Saturday's rain made its mark in Anne Arundel and a few other locations. Trees fell and got tangled in power lines, causing many of the outages. Hail measuring about three-fourths of an inch in diameter hammered pockets of Anne Arundel, where winds also reached 60 mph, according to the Weather Service. Woodcock said heavy winds also caused damage in Loudoun County, and tobacco crops were flattened in southern Prince George's.

    "A lot of people had car damage from branches falling," said John Anderson, manager of John's General Store on Duvall Highway in Pasadena. "Some of the houses out here had serious damage."

    On Saturday evening, when the store was without power because of downed electric lines, Anderson said he and a co-worker had to improvise, replacing the electronic cash register with old-fashioned paper and pencil.

    Ray Gearhart suffered damage around his Pasadena house, as a four-year-old pear tree was cut almost in half by the high winds. And Cheryl Twomey, another resident of Duvall Highway, joked, "There's nothing wrong, except that I had a little piece of my house come off."

    She said the rains and wind terrified her: "I thought it might be a tornado or a hurricane or something."

    Anne Arundel was hit by the leading edge of the storm, forecasters said. The Weather Service received reports of "rotations in clouds" in Anne Arundel, one of the precursors of a tornado, according to Woodcock, and meteorologists watched the area carefully.

    The weekend's rain occurred when a weak cold front came through on the heels of very hot, humid conditions, Woodcock said.

    The mid-Atlantic region has been suffering through a year-long drought. Maryland officials imposed broad water restrictions early this month, and while there are no such restrictions in the District and Virginia, officials have asked residents to conserve water.

    Staff writer Emily Wax contributed to this report.

    Rainfall totals from Saturday's storms varied widely across the region, and analysts say it did little to relieve the drought conditions here.


    Baltimore-Washington Internationa: l0.95

    Reagan Nationa: l0.33

    Dulles Internationa: l0.12

    Maryland Sites

    Oxon Hill (Prince George's County): 0.77

    Rivera Beach (Anne Arundel County): 2.39

    Annapolis (Anne Arundel): 1.5

    Waldorf, Md.: 0.43

    Virginia Sites

    Great Falls, Va.: 0.13

    Occoquan (Prince William): 0.79

    Herndon (Fairfax): 0.34

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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