High-wind warning through 6 a.m. Saturday *

Power outage tracker | School closings | Fed closed | Weather wreaking havoc locally

5:10 p.m. (final) update

The relentless high winds and hundreds of downed trees have pushed the power outage count to 575,000 customers as of 5 p.m. Peak gusts over the last hour have continued to reach up around 60 mph. Reagan National Airport logged a 59 mph gust just before 5 p.m., while Dulles hit 60 mph around 4:30 p.m. Amazingly, Dulles Airport has recorded gusts over 50 mph for 12 straight hours, “a rare occurrence” according to the National Weather Service.

The high wind warning continues through the overnight hours. Even though winds should not be quite as high as during the day, the predicted gusts in the 40 to 55 mph range, occasionally near 60 mph, will be strong enough to cause tree damage.

To follow additional storm updates and read the forecast through the weekend, follow this story: PM Update: Winds continue to whip tonight into Saturday, additional outages and damage possible

(Scroll down below for earlier updates).

Overview

A powerful Nor’easter exploding off the coast of the Northeast is causing one of the worst wind storms in the region in years. Widespread wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph have downed scores of trees around the Washington region, and power outage numbers have surged into the six figures.

Bursts of potentially dangerous winds for both motorists and pedestrians will continue through the afternoon and into the evening. More trees could fall and power outages will continue. This is a long duration wind event.

Key points

  • Winds will be sustained in the 25 to 40 mph range through early this evening, with frequent gusts into the 40 to 60 mph range. 60+ mph gusts are still possible, especially in higher terrain and near the Chesapeake Bay.
  • This evening and tonight, peak gusts should ease to 40 to 55 mph, but strong enough to damage tree limbs and lead to continuing power issues. On Saturday, most gusts should be in the 30 to 45 mph range – less hazardous, but strong enough to be a nuisance. By Sunday, peak winds should relax below 30 mph and no longer present hazards.
  • Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution. Look out for projectiles. Avoid walking through wooded areas. Limit time outside if possible.
  • Motorists should limit travel if they can. If you must be out, conditions are generally passable with care. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and look out for trees, branches, and debris on roadways. Allow trucks room to maneuver. Try to avoid parking cars near trees.

Peak gusts

Dahlgren, Va. – 75
Dulles Airport, Va. – 71
Ballenger Creek, Md. – 69
Gaithersburg, Md. – 69
Patuxent River, Md. – 68
Upper Marlboro, Md. – 67
Downtown Washington, D.C. (near Union Station) – 66
Catholic University, D.C. – 66
Sabillasville, Md. – 64
Flint, Md. – 62
Andrews AFB, Md – 62
Washington National, Va. – 62
BWI Airport – 61
Leesburg, Va. – 61
Winchester, Va. – 61
Chaptico, Md. – 60
Manassas, Va. – 60
U.S. Capitol, D.C. – 58

Link: More complete list

Earlier updates

4:05 p.m. update

We have now reached the hour in which winds should start to ease ever so slightly. But do not let your guard down as the high wind warning remains in effect overnight and we are still likely to endure gusts of 40 to 55 mph. But 60 mph and greater gusts should become much more isolated and eventually cease later tonight.

That said, we’ve continued to see scattered 60 mph gusts reports in the last hour, including at Reagan National (60 mph), BWI Airport (61 mph), Quantico (58 mph), and Ft. Belvoir (60 mph). Camp David, Md. clocked a 68 mph gust.

Hundreds of trees have fallen around the region and, even with the winds slowly dropping off some in the coming hours, more are likely to come down. Many areas have witnessed 15 straight hours of winds gusting over 40 mph, so some trees are stressed and vulnerable.

For the commute home this evening, drive defensively. Be on the lookout for trees, branches, and other debris on the roads.

Suffice to say, the weather today has been difficult for flying – whether a bird or a plane:

3:10 p.m. update

Each hour, I keep hoping to see peak wind gusts drop off, but they have been relentless in topping out in the 60-mph range. Just this past hour, a gust of 66 mph was clocked near Union Station in the District. Patuxent River gusted to 68 mph.

Reagan National Airport’s sustained wind at 3 p.m. was 44 mph, its highest yet – tropical-storm force, and was seeing gusts to 59 mph.

Dulles Airport, Hagerstown, and Annapolis also logged gusts around 60 mph in the past hour.

Until the sun starts to descend, powerful gusts to around 60 mph or so remain reasonably likely. This means more trees coming down, like we see in the videos below:

By 5 or 6 p.m., we should see peak gusts start to ease more in the 40 to 55 mph range.

2:05 p.m. update

Winds gusts up to near 60 mph continue battering the region. Just before 2 p.m. Reagan National Airport logged a 58 mph gust and Dulles reported a 60 mph gust in the last hour. National has now observed wind gusts over 50 mph for four straight hours.

The number of power outages across the region has seemed to plateau in the 450 to 500 thousand range. But it’s not out of the question that bursts of wind in the next few hours could cause the numbers to rise a bit. The beating trees have taken for over 12 hours now will make them vulnerable.

1:05 p.m. update

Winds remain extreme. At 1 p.m., the wind at Reagan National Airport was sustained at 40 mph, gusting to 58 mph, which is tropical-storm force. Peak gusts in the past hour have hovered near 60 mph (Reagan National clocked 59 and 62 mph gusts and Dulles clocked a 60 mph gusts) – not quite as high as the 11 a.m. hour when Dulles clocked a 71 mph gust, but still dangerously high.

Power outage numbers have reached 450,000, which is more than during Sandy in October 2012.

Short-term modeling suggests peak gusts will remain in the 50 to 60 mph range over the next few hours before slowly easing a bit this evening. We still cannot rule out some 60-plus mph gusts through the afternoon as these winds sometimes come in sudden bursts which are hard to anticipate in advance.


HRRR model forecast for peak gusts through 7 p.m.

The National Weather Service has logged well over 100 reports of damaging winds since early Friday morning. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted it had responded to 569 requests for help including 47 cases of trees falling into homes.

Noon update

Winds ticked up over the last hour and continue wreaking havoc around the region. Remarkably, Dulles Airport clocked a gust to 71 mph at 11:39 a.m., which matches its peak gust during the June 2012 derecho.

More trees are falling and power outage numbers have spiked to nearly 400,000. We’re also seeing spotty reports of structural damage to homes and buildings.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge was closed for traffic in the last hour and, on the U.S. 40 Hatem Bridge in northeast Maryland, a truck overturned due to the high winds.

Other peak gusts in the last hour:

Fredericksburg, Va.: 61 mph
Manassas, Va.: 59 mph
Andrews Air Force Base, Md.: 61 mph
Ft. Belvoir, Va: 60 mph
Camp David, Md.: 59 mph

At Reagan National Airport, which was gusting to 54 mph at noon, winds have gusted over 40 mph for the past 12 hours.

11:05 a.m. update

Winds continue ripping across the region, trees are still coming down, and power outage numbers are escalating, up over 325,000 now.

We’ve even seen reports of structural damage, such as this chimney taken out by the wind in Falls Church, Va.:

While gusts to near 50 mph are most common, occasional damaging gusts over 60 mph are unleashed. Upper Marlboro clocked a gust to 67 mph around 10:30 a.m. At 11:00 a.m., winds were near tropical-storm force at Dulles Airport, sustained at 37 mph, and gusting to 53 mph.

10 a.m. update

Wind gusts in the 40 to 60 mph range continue to lash the region. Gusts at both Reagan National and Dulles at 10 a.m. were around 50 mph, with wind sustained in the 20 to 35 mph range.

The damaging wind reports to the National Weather Service continue to pile up at feverish pace. The map below is a graphic representation:


In the last hour, the most impressive gust was 69 mph clocked at Patuxent River, Md.

The one piece of somewhat encouraging news, as Ian Livingston discussed in his last report, is that the period of widespread extreme gusts, from 60 to 70 mph, may have already come through earlier this morning. That said, gusts in the 50 to 60 mph range and isolated higher levels are likely through the afternoon.