Tropical Storm David ripped into the Washington area late yesterday, killing two persons, blacking out more than 100,000 homes and dumping as much as 7 inches of rain on some communities.
The storm, which spawned up to 10 tornado-like funnels, overturned cars, toppled trees and ripped roofs off homes. David's rains sent streams surging over their banks, flooded roads and caused massive traffic snarls.
Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton late last night declared a state of emergency for his entire state, which was apparently hardest hit by the storm.
Though road crews worked through the night to clear streets, commuters this morning were likely to face hazardous driving conditions and unpredictable delays on their way to work.
The National Weather Service said the storm's center should pass over the Washington area early this morning, with lingering showers giving way to partially cleared skies later in the day.
A flash flood warning was extended to 6 a.m. today by the weather service.
Alexandria officials warned residents and store owners on the city's Potomac waterfront that flooding could occur this morning around high tide, expected at about 8:30.
Yesterday, commuter routes, especially in suburban Maryland, were under water, traffic lights malfunctioned and disabled cars littered the landscape, turning much of the evening rush hour into chaos.Connecticut Avenue and other major streets in the city were strewn with fallen trees, smashed autos and downed wires.
The two persons killed were a Washington Star truck driver whose vehicle overturned and burned on rain-slicked 14th Street Bridge and a resident crushed in his Great Falls home in suburban Virginia when a wind-blown tree crashed through the roof.
The driver was identified as Carl Binker, 37, of 1101 Cottage St. SW, Vienna, D.C. police said his circulation van struck a guardrail on the northbound span of the bridge, overturned and struck another guardrail and then was rammed by a private car. Binker's van burst into flames. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A 15-year-old youth riding in the truck suffered minor injuries and was released after treatment at a local hospital.
Fairfax County Police identified the resident killed at his home in Great Falls as Arden Rahe, 63, of 446 Springvale Road.
In addition to the two deaths, police reported more than a dozen persons injured in storm-related auto accidents or by falling tree limbs.
Numerous homes, garages and retail shops were damaged by flooding and falling trees. A portion of the roof of a Zayre department store at 7690 Richmond Highway in Fairfax County was ripped off by high winds, according to county police.
The Potomac Electric Power Co. estimated 80,000 customers in upper Northwest Washington, adjacent Bethesda and other widely scattered sections of Montgomery and Prince George's counties were without power at 10:45 last night.
In Virginia, the Virginia Electric and Power Co. estimated 20,000 of its customers were hit in McLean, Falls Church, Springfield, North Arlington, Tysons Corner and other areas.
Pepco spokesman Dan Ruskin said 110 crew members were out last night repairing damaged substations and restringing wires. He said the problem was that "more and more outages [are] being reported as fast as workmen can repair the original ones."
He declined to speculate when power would be fully restored.
Several sightings of tornado-like funnels and sudden freakish winds were reported throughout the area yesterday. One funnel touched down in the Odenton area of Anne Arundel County near Rte. 3 and Waugh Chapel Roads, overturning cars, ripping roofs loose from some houses and narrowly missing an elementary school building filled with 500 to 600 children.
Police also reported tornadoes in Fairfax City, Loudoun County near Dulles International Airport and at several points in southern Virginia and in Maryland.
In the District of Columbia, sudden brief winds swooped down on residential areas, knocking down trees and cutting off electrical power. The winds ceased as suddenly as they appeared, residents reported.
Several venerable old trees were knocked down in the Kalorama section near 18th Street and Columbia Road NW and in the 2200 block of Cathedral Avenue NW.
In Alexandria, the Potomac River, swollen by high tides and whipped by gusting winds, was licking at waterfront streets in the Old Town section early last night. Tides were reported two or more feet above normal at nearby Chesapeake Bay points.
Flash flood warnings were issued by the weather service for much of Virginia and Maryland, and forecasters said the worst may come today as swollen tributary streams dump their contents into major rivers in the area.
The storm, now the remnants of the 150-mile-an-hour Hurricane David that ripped across the Caribbean earlier this week killing more than 1,000 persons, was expected to complete its passage over the Washington area today, leaving only a few showers in its wake as it heads for eastern Pennsylvania.
It is hardly recognizable as the massive circular storm system it once was. "It's breaking up and becoming disorganized," said Larry LaRue, meteorlogist in charge at the National Weather Service forecast center here.
Authorities attribute up to seven deaths to the storm in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and estimate property damage in Florida alone at $60 million.
Once inland, David lost much of its power. Winds dropped below 75 miles per hour, so that David also lost its hurricane status and became a tropical storm. By late yesterday, as it whirled over North Carolina, its highest winds were no more than 45 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service recorded gusts up to 39 miles per hour at National Airport, but forecasters said even stronger gusts were probably responsible for the felled trees throughout the area.
Rains, torrential in some spots and intermittent in others, began falling early yesterday morning as the northern fringe of David reached the area.
By early this morning, 3.68 inches of rain had been recorded at the airport, the official measuring point for the National Weather Service, but much larger amounts had been measured elsewhere.
A massive downpour dumped two and one-quarter inches of rain in one hour in the Sligo Creek Park area of eastern Montgomery County, one of the hardest hit sections of metropolitan Washington.
Montgomery County police reported that Sligo Creek Parkway was closed off from Forest Glen Road near the Capital Beltway all the way to the Prince George's County line. Portions of Interstate Rte. 270 near the Beltway also were closed because of flooding as were other major roads in Rockville, Gaithersburg and Wheaton.
Hundreds of Alexandria residents were warned around 10 p.m. that they might have to evacuate as water levels rose in Four Mile Run in the Arlandria area and Holmes Run near Duke and Van Dorn streets.
At Four Mile Run, which has caused disastrous flooding periodically since the early 1960s, a high of 9 1/2 feet -- a half foot short of flood stage -- was recorded at 10:15 p.m. An hour later, the water had receded to 7 1/2 feet, and by midnight the flood warning was canceled.
Dayton Cook, director of the city's department of Transportation and Environmental Services, said, "so far we have been nice and lucky. We would have been flooded a few years ago without the new flood control channel."
A $55 million federally funded flood control program begun six years ago has created a 200-foot wide channel for the stream, which empties into the Potomac River. The project is 90 percent complete and should be finished this fall.
Extensive damage was caused by what eyewitnesses called a small funnel cloud touching down near the crest of a hill on Little River Turnpike in Fairfax City about 7:20 p.m.
"It was going wild as hell," said David Rogers, a maintenance man at the Fairfax Square apartment complex on Little River Turnpike. "Just wild and gusty."
Police said they knew of no injuries from what many residents of the area described as a small tornado.
The storm ripped off the front of a newly opened office building designed as a townhouse and lifted the roofs from several other offices in the complex called Williamsburg Square.
Nearby, a modernistic office building occupied by the Fairfax County Teachers Federal Credit Union lost its roof. Its offices were cluttered with litter and dripping water.
Several homes in the Little River Hills subdivision of Fairfax City also were heavily damaged, many from fallen trees.
"My brother and I were looking out in the yard and suddenly the trees weren't there," said Anne Griffith, 13, of 3909 Estel Rd.
The family estimated they lost about 10 trees around their house.
Virginia Carrick of 4015 Trapp Rd., Fairfax City, said she "heard a big boom. I felt pressure in my ears . . . I saw trees snapping. I was crying. I think I prayed. I had the windows open."
A neighbor, David Marsh, 19, who lives across the street at 4012 Trapp Rd., said "I thought it was an airplane going over. I saw a nearby roof hurl off and go flying. I saw a maple tree fall on the electric line. There were sparks all over. I saw a trailer just rolling along."
The trailer, belonging to Richard E. Carrick, is 24 feet long and fully equipped with a bathroom and shower. It was moved 50 yards from its location on his property, landing on its side.
Several eyewitnesses reported seeing tornado-like funnels in the Fort Meade, Crofton and Odenton sections of Anne Arundel County. One of the most dramatic occurred near Waugh Chapel Road at Rte. 3.
"I saw this huge funnel. It was just sucking everything up," said Tim Pugh, a mailroom employee at The Washington Post who was driving home at 3 p.m. yesterday. " . . . It turned over sheds and tore down fences . . . I just jammed my brakes. The funnel looked gray. I could see it picking up stuff, all this vegetation and stuff."
Anne Arundel Fire Department officials said another tornado-like funnel -- or perhaps the same one that hit the Odenton area -- touched down near Crofton, overturning several cars and injuring one person slightly.