Winds gusted to near hurricane force, trees went down and thousands of homes went dark last night as a powerful line of thunderstorms pelted the region with hail and rain.

In a day that was filled with the steamy atmospheric drama of summertime Washington, temperatures reached record levels in the afternoon before giving way to dark clouds and lightning.

Electricity was knocked out for a while to about 25,000 homes. About 15,000 of them were in the District and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, according to Pepco.

Fueled by the heat and humidity of the day and touched off by cool air advancing along a broad front from the Great Lakes area, the storm appeared to churn directly across downtown Washington on a turbulent track from the northwestern part of the region to the southeastern suburbs.

Fire caused damage estimated at $475,000 to a house in the 9900 block of Vineyard Haven Drive in the Montgomery Village section of Montgomery County after lightning apparently struck the roof, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the county fire department.

In Rockville's Manor Lake section, lightning damaged a carport after apparently first striking a backyard tree in the 14900 block of Waterway Drive, Piringer said.

In the District, lightning knocked out the electrical system of a house in the 5900 block of Willow Street NW about 9. The house smoked and smoldered, but no fire broke out, said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

The storm tore down trees in Greenbrier State Park in Washington County, Md., and at sites all over Frederick County. Also in Ashburn, Ellicott City, and Germantown and in the District, Arlington, Severna Park and on Route 210 about two miles south of Oxon Hill.

In Ashburn, a National Weather Service employee reported a wind gust of 72 mph -- 2 mph below hurricane force. Children's Hospital in the District reportedly clocked a gust of 64 mph. Hail fell on the western edges of the region, including Berryville in Clarke County, Va.

At Dulles International Airport, the temperature reached 92 at 1:43 p.m., a record for the date. At Reagan National Airport, the official reading was three degrees lower but still the hottest of the year.