Waves of thunderstorms tore through the region yesterday evening, with sheets of rain, streaks of lightning and powerful winds that flooded roads, toppled trees and knocked out power temporarily to 62,000 homes.
Hail 1 to 2 inches in diameter pelted Loudoun County, and smaller hailstones were reported in Annandale. Winds gusted up to 60 miles an hour in some areas and more than 2 inches of rain fell in about three hours at National Airport, National Weather Service meteorologists said.
Local airports stopped accepting incoming flights from 6:25 to 7:15 p.m. to avoid one major storm, which followed a steamy afternoon that saw temperatures rise to 93 degrees, matching the high for the year.
"We've got several storm cells that we are tracking," meteorologist Jim Schultz said in the early evening. "There are warnings for flash floods in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and we are tracking those. The radar at this point is just loaded with storms."
Power was cut off to about 20,000 homes in Northern Virginia during the first wave of storms, according to a spokeswoman for Virginia Power. About 8,000 of them were in the Alexandria and Arlington areas with 6,000 more in Herndon and an additional 2,000 in Leesburg.
Power was restored to most of the homes within an hour or two, Virginia Power spokeswoman Deborah Tompkins said.
About 41,000 homes served by two utility companies in Montgomery, Prince George's and western sections of Anne Arundel counties also lost power, utility representatives said.
The storm knocked out electricity to about 24,000 homes in Montgomery County and in the portion of Prince George's served by Potomac Electric Power Co. a Pepco spokeswoman said.
A tree that fell on a power line on Route 3 south of Route 450 was blamed for cutting off power to 17,000 homes served by the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. in the Bowie area of Prince George's and in adjacent Crofton in Anne Arundel.
A BG&E spokesman said about 40 fuses were blown and that repairs would continue into today.
"A good portion of Bowie is without power at this time," a Prince George's fire spokesman reported about 9 p.m., noting that the storm had toppled many trees and torn down many power lines.
About 1,200 homes were reported without electricity by Pepco in the District last night. Fire officials said they had received about three dozen calls to report fallen wires, apparently snapped by tree branches.
Spots where downed wires were reported included 14th and Gallatin streets NW and the 600 block of Sheridan Street NW. (Winds in the city were less severe than in outlying areas, but the peak gust at National Airport was 44 miles an hour, Weather Service meteorologist Bill Comeaux reported.)
In addition, high water or fallen trees forced closing of portions of at least three major thoroughfares, including the eastbound lanes of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, D.C. police reported.
Seventh District officers used flares and yellow tape to block South Capitol Street about 7:30 p.m. when five feet of water accumulated in the Portland Street underpass.
The high water stalled a Honda automobile, which had to be towed out, police said. Officers with a bucket and cups helped the driver bail out her flooded car.
High water was also reported at Route 295 and East Capitol Street, Benning Road and East Capitol Street, and Bladensburg Road and Neal Street NE.
District firefighters said that four buildings were reported struck by lightning, but that the only damage they found was to the chimney of an apartment house at 60 P St. SW.
Joyce Thompson, a dispatcher with the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department, said the storm crashed into that area about 6 p.m., bringing heavy rain and high winds.
"We've got trees down. We've got power lines down," said Thompson, whose office is outside Leesburg. "It hit us really bad and a lot of people are calling."
Virginia Power operations supervisor Dave Andrejcak said 10 minutes after the storm hit, his phones were "ringing off the hook." Customers were reporting downed power lines, but no fire damage had been reported, he said.
Along Lee Highway in Fairfax County, the sky blackened about 5:45 p.m. and by 6, heavy rains were falling accompanied by crashing claps of thunder and vivid streaks of lightning.
The storm was caused by a cold front that swept into the area from Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, weather officials said.
"It's caused by a combination of the moist air at the earth's surface and the high temperatures added to the cold front that came in from the Ohio and Indiana area," said Ken Reeves of Accu-Weather.
Today's temperatures are expected to reach the mid-eighties. The forecast calls for winds of up to 16 miles an hour and showers are likely through late afternoon, Reeves said.
Tomorrow, skies are expected to be partly sunny, with highs in the low eighties and winds of 12 to 22 miles an hour.
Yesterday began with above-average humidity and high temperatures.
By noon, when the temperature reached 80, Banneker Recreation Center's pool was crowded with neighborhood children and their parents, splashing and frolicking in the cool water.
Deanna Green stopped trying to brave temperatures in her Northwest home when the mercury rose past 85. She grabbed some refreshments and beach towels, packed up her three young children and headed for the Banneker pool.
"It was just too hot in the house to stay there -- we had to get out," said Green, 26, as she wiped beads of chlorinated water from her baby daughter's cheeks.
When the high temperature reached 93 degrees at National Airport, it matched the high reported April 27, weather officials said.
By 7 p.m., the temperature had fallen to 71 degrees. The record was set on the date in 1874 when the mercury peaked at 102 degrees.