Destructive winds gusting to more than 60 miles an hour roared through the Washington area yesterday, uprooting trees, ripping down power lines and hurling a pedestrian to her death in front of a car in Bethesda.
As 26-year-old Sharon E. Dove was crossing Massachusetts Avenue near Marlyn Drive in the face of the storm, she was blown backward into the path of the auto and carried more than 100 feet, Montgomery County Police said.
The violent windstorm, which spawned at least two tornado-like funnel clouds in the Washington-Baltimore area, also knocked out electricity to thousands of homes and caused three injuries when a falling tree limb crashed into a car in the District.
Under the force of winds gusting to 61 miles an hour at Dulles Airport and 55 miles an hour at National Airport, trees and branches tumbled onto roads and highways throughout the metropolitan area, and motorists and pedestrians alike battled fierce blasts of airborne dirt, dust and rubbish.
Sweeping across not only the Washington area but much of the Eastern Seaboard as well, the powerful early spring storm played havoc with the plans of evening rush-hour motorists and would-be airline passengers.
Airplanes in New York -- including the heavily traveled shuttle services -- were grounded by winds gusting up to 50 miles an hour there. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, scheduled to play before a full house at the Kennedy Center last night, canceled after being stranded too long at LaGuardia Airport.
As power lines snapped throughout the Washington area and the toll of those families without electricity rose toward the 10,000 mark, thousands of Fairfax County residents temporarily found themselves with a relative trickle of water from their faucets as a result of the storm.
Wind damage knocked out the electricity that supplied power to the Fairfax County Water Authority's Occoquan pumping station. Water pressure in the county dropped sharply about 4:30 p.m. when power was cut off. Shortly after 6:15 p.m. it was restored.
In its raging fury, the storm tore windows from high-rise apartment houses in Alexandria and Arlington. It sent one tree crashing through the roof of a parked police car in Arlington and another smashing into a house in Bethesda. (Photo, Page B1.)
The three injuries came when a tree crumpled the roof of a car at 13th and Harvard streets NW in Washington.
In the Bethesda traffic incident in which the woman was killed, police said the victim, who lived at 5810 Augusta La., and a companion, had just stepped from a bus, and had gone half way across the street when Dove was blown back and hit by the car about 6:45 p.m.
Blustering and howling through the area for much of the day, but intensifying toward evening, the windstorm was ascribed to the fierce contrast between two large air masses colliding over the seaboard.
The huge blanket of mild air that had produced the balmy temperatures of the last two days was roughly shoved aside yesterday by a powerful cold front arriving from the west.
The vast energies unleashed by the atmospheric clash spawned yesterday's two funnel clouds -- one spotted just south of Fairfax City, the other west of Baltimore near Reisterstown. Neither, according to the National Weather Service, ever touched the ground, and they were not classified as tornadoes.
In Pennsylvania, heavy snow followed the cold front westward. A few flurries were reported here last night.
No snow was predicted for Washington for today but gusty winds are expected to remain, although at diminished levels.
"No day to play tennis," said one forecaster. Temperatures, which suddenly plunged into the 40s from their 69-degree high yesterday, are expected to climb back to the mid-50s today.