Four people were killed and nine others were missing yesterday after a 40-foot charter fishing boat out of Norfolk capsized in a violent storm that struck the Norfolk-Newport News area and brought as much as an inch or rain to the Washington area.
A Coast Guard spokesman said 14 other people were plucked from the storm-churned waters after the Dixie Lee 11 sank off Thimble Shoals Channel, the main shipping channel into Hampton Roads. The boat capsized at about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon as the squall line swept through the Norfolk area.
The rescue vessel was the Joyce Lee, out of Exmore, Va.
John Fishburn, a Coast Guard information officer, said the area was hit by hard, driving rain that cut visibiltiy suddenly to 100 yards. Winds of up to 95 knots were recorded at the Norfolk regional airport at 4:30.
The 14 people rescued from the Dixie Lee were taken to the Willoughby Bay Marina, from which the boat had set out at about 2:30 p.m.
After the storm - technically a squall line - had reached the bay at Hampton Roads, it tore away a 600-foot section of the Ocean View Fishing Pier. No one was on it at the time, according to police.
Three sailboats also were reported to have overturned in the Atlantic off Virginia Beach. Fishburn said all five people aboard those boats were rescured.
The violent windstorm that hit Norfolk late yesterday was accompanied by heavy rains and winds estimated at up to 98 miles an hour that shattered windows in downtown buildings and knocked down utility poles, according to the National Weather Service in Washington.
A Weather Service spokesman said the storm that swept the District of Columbia and Virginia was caused by a low-pressure system that formed Sunday over the Ohio Valley and moved overnight across central Virginia.
In addition to the estimated 1 inch of rainfall it dropped in a sporadic pattern over sections of the parched Washington area. it deposited 1 1/2 inches in a 30-minute period at the Patuxent Naval Air Station in southern Maryland. The fall at Patuxent was accompanied by hailstones of up to a quarter-inch in diameter. Winds at the air station gusted up to 45 miles an hour.
George Schielein, senior meteorologist at the Weather Service, said the contrast between extremely warm air in the southern part of Virginia and much cooler air to the north combined to spawn the violent squall line.
Schielein said the storm had spent itself before nightfall. The Weather Service said Washington could expect high temperatures today in the low- to mid-60s, with wind gusts of up to 40 miles an hour.
The spotty rain, which fell in the metropolitan area yesterday apparently brought slight relief from the dry spell. The Weather Service said only .17 inches fell at National Airport, but preliminary reports indicated some parts of the region may have received as much as 1 inch of rain.
Massive power blackouts were reported throughout the Tidewater area in the wake of the storm with Virginia Beach perhaps the hardest hit city.
One observer said power transformers "were popping all along one section of Virginia Beach Boulevard."
Just after the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area, what may have been a twister tore through a section of Isle of Wight County.
Authorities also said the roof of an apartment building near the collapsed Ocean View Pier, which had been 1.300 feet long, also blew off during the storm.
Police reported that power lines were down throughout the area and Norfolk streets were cluttered with debris from the high winds.
The weather service said that the Washington area has received almost 7 inches less rainfall so far this year than is average, with the long range forecast predicting less rain in June than normal.
Rainfall last month was almost 2 inches lower than normal for the month of May, according to the Weather Service. In April, the area received 2.66 inches as opposed to the 2.86 inches that is average. The average rainfall in June is 3.48 inches.