Whistling gusts of wind pushed Greg Gildersleeve's blue-and-white surfboard faster and faster through the Potomac River's chilly waters yesterday as a crowd gathered at the Washington Sailing Marina to see how long the 23-year-old could stay afloat before taking another spill in the river.
Although Gildersleeve's sail-rigged surfboard fell over several times from the force of yesterday's winds that gusted up to 50 miles per hour, he managed to cope with the blustery blasts better than most Washingtonians.
For the second day in a row, area residents encountered turbulent and sometimes violent intrusions into what should be the first joys of spring--picnic outings, cherry blossom browsing and even simple tasks, like cutting the grass or washing the car.
High winds are expected to punish the area again today, and, as if that weren't enough, the National Weather Service says there is an 80 percent chance of wet snow beginning late today and continuing into Tuesday. Forecasters say, however, that there is a possibility the snow-laden weather front rolling toward us out of the Midwest may shift slightly northward and bring us two days of rain instead.
After balmy 60- and 70-degree spring weather on Thursday and Friday, thunderstorms and 46-mile-an-hour winds ripped through Washington during the annual spring Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday, dumping almost half an inch of rain on the area.
Although the low-pressure weather system that brought the rain finally left the area by late Saturday evening, the high winds remained.
Nevertheless, sunny skies attracted a throng of sightseers to the Washington Tidal Basin and the Old Town Alexandria water front to snap pictures and view the budding spring trees and flowers.
Frisbee and soccer players there seemed to be undaunted by the high winds that often affected the results of the most skillfully executed kick or throw. And some, like, windsailer Gildersleeve, seemed to thrive on the tricks the wind played.
"The faster the wind blows the more fun it is," said Gildersleeve as he emerged from the Potomac River's murky waters. "I usually only go out when the waves are three or four feet high and the wind is really blowing."
But the wind was blamed for blowing down a 6-by-5 foot sign at Gino's restaurant, 5225 Lee Hwy., in Arlington, which fell onto the road and blocked the flow of traffic for a little less than an hour, according to restaurant employes. The D.C. Fire Department reported that several trees in upper Northwest Washington were blown down by the wind, but no personal or property damage followed.
The Potomac Electric Power Company reported that 2,058 of its customers, mostly in Montgomery County and upper Northwest Washington, were without power for at least part of yesterday. A company spokeswoman said that PEPCO crews expected to have power restored by this morning.