High winds and the first snowstorm of the winter blew through Washington early yesterday, downing power lines and leaving thousands without electricity or water, but causing no other major problems.
Police reported no major traffic accidents or snarls, but the one to two inches of snow that fell combined with ice, burdening tree limbs and causing them to fall on overhead wires and in yards. Area hospitals surveyed reported no unusual weather-related or power problems.
National Weather Service forecasters said the storm was caused by a low pressure center that formed off the Delmarva Peninsula. They expected high temperatures today in the low to mid 40s, with similar temperatures for the next two or three days.
Hardest hit was Northern Virginia. The storm left only about an inch of snow, but falling trees and branches damaged power lines, including those servicing the Fairfax County Water Authority treatment plants at Lorton and Occoquan, according to Fred Griffith, assistant engineer-director.
Griffith estimated that 250,000 of the agency's 660,000 customers either lost water service or experienced a severe drop in pressure, starting at 3 a.m. Most of the customers live in Annandale, Springfield, Mount Vernon or Baileys Crossroads, but nearby Alexandria and the northern section of Prince William County reported water troubles.
Fairfax firefighters put a 2,000-gallon tank truck on alert. "We could be in danger," spokesman Howard Bailey said early yesterday. But by midafternoon, the power was restored and the water was flowing again. No fires were reported during the outage.
At Bob's Big Boy Restaurant in Vienna, where water stopped flowing at 10 a.m. and was still off three hours later, fried foods dished up on paper plates and coffee made from melted ice were the order of the day, employe Marietta Aozan said.
David Bond, meanwhile, was busy turning away customers from his Wash Fair carwash on Brandon Avenue near Springfield Mall. "The cars are dirty," he said. "They have lots of sand and grit on them." But without water, he added, "we're not doing too good a job getting it off."
At the same time, the Virginia Electric Power Co. was reporting 15,000 Northern Virginian customers, mostly in the Burke and Occoquan areas, were without electricity. Tesfaye Konde, the utility's assistant operating supervisor for Northern Virginia, said electric crews were out in force for much of the night, and that power had returned to most areas. An estimated 800 customers in scattered areas were still without power late yesterday afternoon.
Officials at the Potomac Electric Power Co., which supplies electricity to the District and to most of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, said about 19,000 customers in those areas were without electricity at 7 a.m. By 5 p.m., fewer than 200 customers were still without power, company spokeswoman Nancy Moses said.
The Upper Marlboro and Clinton areas of Prince George's County were hardest hit, she said.
Prince George's resident Beth Henrickson said winds knocked down 24 pine trees in the back yard of her Cheltenham home. "They've been here forever," she said. "Well, they used to be here forever."