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High wind warning Saturday for the D.C. region, with damaging gusts possible

Scattered to widespread power outages are possible, and there’s also a chance of a few severe storms.

A high wind warning is in effect for most of the region Saturday afternoon and evening. (National Weather Service)
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Get ready for a windy Saturday with the possibility of dangerously high gusts.

The National Weather Service has placed the D.C. area under a high wind warning for the likelihood of strong winds, potentially gusting to around 60 mph Saturday afternoon and evening. “Damaging winds will blow down trees and power lines. Widespread power outages are expected. Travel will be difficult, especially for high profile vehicles,” the Weather Service wrote.

There’s also the potential for a few severe storms capable of producing damaging winds and small hail. The Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has placed the northern and eastern portion of the area under a Level 1 out of 5 risk for severe weather. This is the same storm system responsible for a severe weather outbreak in the central U.S.

In addition to damaging wind gusts at times late Saturday, sustained winds out of the west of 25 to 35 mph are possible. For some perspective, tropical storm-force wind is sustained at 39 mph or higher.

Despite the rain, the strong winds could increase the risk of fires in open areas, especially since the region has been running below normal for precipitation this year.

It turns rather windy as soon as Friday night, so now is a good time to secure any loose outdoor objects that might blow around. You might also consider charging phones and batteries given the likelihood of at least scattered power outages. The high wind event will put a quick end to lengthy bloom period for the cherry blossoms, as most of the remaining petals will be blown away over the next 24 hours.

Below is a snapshot of what to expect.

Wind timeline

Through Friday night — Even before the high wind watch period late Saturday, winds turn quite gusty starting late Friday. As soon as this evening and overnight, relatively frequent gusts in a 30 to 40 mph range are likely, with sustained around 15 to 25 mph.

Saturday morning — There may be a pulse of higher winds as the front approaches and with any stronger showers or storms as it passes (see below for more details on storms). Fairly widespread gusts of 40 to 45 mph are possible during this time, with the potential for isolated gusts up to 50 mph or so.

Midday to early afternoon Saturday — A relative lull may follow the frontal passage. Think of this as the eye of the storm. A bigger rush of wind will be on the way.

Early to midafternoon through early evening — Strong winds are crossing the Blue Ridge somewhere in the 1 to 2 p.m. range, give or take. They should spread into the D.C. metro area through late afternoon, with gusts reaching and surpassing 50 mph at times, especially west. Winds are sustained as high as 25 to 35 mph by early evening. Temperatures head well into the 70s to near 80.

Saturday evening — The worst of it may come during the hours surrounding sunset, or around 5 to 10 p.m. Widespread wind gusts near and past 50 mph seem likely, with some gusts around 60 mph possible. This could certainly lead to downed trees and power outages, in at least isolated to scattered fashion.

Overnight into early Sunday — Winds are waning late night, but still gusting around 40 mph into the predawn hours. Gusts are down to 30 to 40 mph by sunrise on Sunday, and winds become relatively calm during the day.

Storm timeline

First round: Saturday 7 a.m. to midday — Showers and maybe some rumbles of thunder should arrive in the hours after sunrise.

Winds may gust even stronger in any intense showers ahead of or along a cold front passing through in the mid-late morning, perhaps around 11 a.m. Showers should exit Southern Maryland by around 2 p.m. About a tenth of an inch of rain seems likely, with some spots seeing more.

Maybe a lull: Saturday afternoon — Sunshine mixed with clouds, minimal risk of showers.

Second round: Saturday 5 to 9 p.m. — The second round could be a broken line. Best odds for showers and storms are generally D.C. area and northward.

Very strong energy aloft and a push of colder air fire up showers and storms that could produce damaging wind and/or small hail. It moves fast and moisture is less plentiful behind the front, so there’s probably won’t be a lot of rain. Another tenth of an inch, or a bit more possible in some spots.

Calm after the storm

Temperatures are on the cool side of normal Sunday, but that’s still well into the 50s and with diminishing winds. Above-average warmth with temperatures in the 70s to low or mid-80s surges into the area next week. Another storm system may approach by midweek.