Severe Storms Cause Extensive Damage

Alexandria Mayor William Euille compared his Virginia town to a war zone after strong storms blew through Thursday afternoon.  

Euille said the storms were worse for his town than Isabel or Snowmageddon. He said he heard reports of windows blown out at a post office and the doors blown open at a 7-Eleven, as well as speculation of mini-tornadoes, though none has been confirmed.

But Alexandria wasn't alone.  Severe storms brought lightning, heavy rain, hail and winds up to 70 mph throughout the D.C. area late Thursday afternoon and evening, causing extensive damage.

The wind knocked trees and tree limbs on to houses, cars and power lines, knocking out power to customers and traffic lights. The fire departments in Alexandria and Prince George's County, Md., reported extensive damage but no deaths or serious injuries. Residents should only call 911 with real emergencies, as dispatchers were swamped with calls.

Several Alexandria streets were blocked by fallen trees. People were advised to avoid driving in Old Town entirely. The Del Ray neighborhood also was hard hit.

The storms also affected Metrorail service in Alexandria. A low-hanging canopy at the King Street Station forced single-tracking, causing delays on the Blue and Yellow lines until about 7 p.m.

A tornado warning was issued for parts of Maryland before 5 p.m., and though extensive wind damage has been reported in Prince George's, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, no tornado activity has been confirmed.

In northwest D.C., a fallen tree blocked MacArthur Boulevard -- a popular commuting route between D.C. and Montgomery County, Md., and emergency route for Sibley Hospital. The tree also took down power, telephone and cable lines. After Pepco de-energized the lines at about 6:30 p.m., crews began working on removing the tree and reopening the road, D.C. Fire Lt. Sean Egan said. There was no estimate for when the road would be reopened.

Three trees fell on the George Washington Parkway, landing on a bus and three other vehicles and cutting off access to Ronald Reagan National Airport. The southbound lanes were closed between I-395 and Alexandria. Traffic was directed on to the 14th Street Bridge. The northbound lanes were closed for a time, too, as crews had to cut the trees to get to the people in the cars. No serious injuries were reported.

The storms also caused air travel delays. Delays up to 90 minutes were reported at Reagan National. At Dulles International, they were even longer -- up to two hours and 45 minutes.

At 6:30 p.m., Dominion Virginia Power was reporting 66,281 customers without power, with the majority in Alexandria; Pepco reported 58,217 customers without power; and BGE reported 526 customers without power.

The area will start to dry out Friday, but there will still be a slight chance of showers. The weekend is looking great up and down the East Coast, especially at the beaches. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s to near 90, but the humidity will be lower -- a welcome relief for the Washington area.

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