Cleanup Begins Following Severe Storms

Residents and utility crews are busy Friday cleaning up the damage left behind by Thursday's severe weather. 

Even though the storm passed through quickly, the heavy rainfall and strong winds left a path of damage across parts of Montgomery, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

The National Weather Service will head out to several communities to determine whether any tornadoes touched down.

The majority of damage reports have been of downed trees and power lines, which left thousands in the dark.

Pepco officials told NBC4 they expect to have power back on for their customers by the end of the day.

Sligo Middle School and Blair Ewing Center in Montgomery County were closed Friday due to power outages.

Trained spotters saw possible tornadoes on the ground in Columbia, Fort Meade, Laurel, Olney and at Baltimore Washington International Airport just after 4 p.m.

"It appears to be a tornado," Chris Strong with the National Weather Service said about the damage in Rockville.

What was thought to be a tornadonear Olney was moving east at 50 mph at 4 p.m. Another trained spotter reported a funnel cloud near Fredericksburg about 2:35 p.m.

A historic, 200-year-old oak tree that housed a colony of honey bees on Martin Farm in Woodbine, Md., (seen below) may have also been knocked down by a tornado. A local bee keeper came to the scene to help save the hive, owner Maria Martin said.

Additionally, the News4 Chopper spotted a water spout, or a tornado over water, forming in the Chesapeake Bay and heading toward the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The storm that brought the first tornado warnings arrived in Fredericksburg about 2:30 p.m., but instead of the threat going away as it usually would, it traveled with the storm to King George County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County and Calvert County in about an hour, prompting more tornado warnings along the way, Storm Team 4 Chief Meteorologist Doug Kammerer said.

A second storm to the north then prompted another round of tornado warnings as it moved from Loudoun County through Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.
The strongest storms reached the D.C. metro area about 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Some showers lingered after the storms moved through the area.

Tornado, flash food and thunderstorm warnings issued across Maryland and Virginia have since expired.

News4 reporter Mark Segraves described the storm in downtown D.C. as a "wall of water," with rain filling streets and gutters as lighting flashed overhead. But 10 minutes later, the storm was already clearing, with sunshine quickly appearing to the west.

Travelers and employees at BWI were instructed to head to the lowest level of the airport, to interior rooms during the worst of the storm. The storms caused a chain reaction of flight delays and cancellations at all three major airports in the area.

As skies began to clear, damage reports began trickling in.

Downed trees and fallen limbs were reported throughout the area, including 32 calls for tree service, mostly in northwest D.C. as of 5:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation.

A large tree fell and blocked the 1700 block of Willard Street NW near Dupont Circle, News4’s Derrick Ward reported. A smaller tree fell on a car nearby on Q Street. No injuries were reported in either incident.
On North Old Glebe Road in Arlington, a large tree fell on a house, tearing off part of the gutter and damaging the roof. News4’s David Culver described roots rising about 10 feet high. No one was in the home, into which a woman told Culver she was in the process of moving.
In Lake Anna, a homeowner told News4’s Jackie Bensen he heard a large boom when a large oak fell on his home after the storm built up for about 10 minutes.
“But it has put the cicadas to sleep for the moment,” he said.
In St. Mary's County, the storms caused a three-car accident on Route 235, News4’s Pat Collins reported. At a Target that lost power, shoppers continued shopping under the emergency lights.
In Laurel, a woman got out of a house safe after a tree fell into the roof. A woman who witnessed the tree fall told News4 Prince George’s County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins she suspects a tornado may have knocked that tree over because it appear to first go up in the air before falling down.
In Richmond, a large, mature tree fell on a 4-year-old boy in Marymont Park, killing him. A man suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Clear Channel shared this video of the storm blowing by its Rockville offices:

Tens of thousands of customers lost power in the region. The worst of the power outages in northern Virginia were in Loudoun County, where two substations were out, but Dominion Virginia Power hoped to restore them Thursday night, Culver reported. Some outages may linger into the morning.(See latest power outage numbers here.)

Around the region, residents were sharing their experiences via Twitter. "Wow! Massive wall of high wind and rain JUST hit Crystal City and DCA!" wrote @rydaka around 4 p.m.

Washington Nationals player Bryce Harper tweeted, "Some pretty wicked clouds outside of my building!" and shared a photo.

Not everyone was impressed, though. "Guess it was a 'blink and you miss it' storm?" asked @BikeandRollDC.

The 24-hour rain totals after the storms moved through ranged from 0.17 inches in Fredericksburg, 0.63 inches in Colesville, 0.76 inches in Ashburn, 0.88 inches in St. Mary's County, 0.98 inches in Columbia, 1.06 inches in Montgomery County to 1.39 inches in Olney. That after the region was already soaked by 6-8 inches of rain earlier this week.

With the morning's storms came reports of trees and wires down in Frederick County, Md., near Walkersville and Woodsboro. The area was hit hard by heavy rainfall and strong winds Thursday morning.

Clear Channel reported that a transformer blew after being struck by lightning on Rockville Pike near Twinbrook.

In Maryland, only one westbound lane of the Bay Bridge was open in order to minimize the number of vehicles on the bridge. Officials said the closure of the other two lanes would make it easier and quicker to clear the bridge if necessary.

Large hail fell near the communities of Union Bridge and New Windsor west of Westminster, Md., Thursday morning, Carroll County Emergency Management Director James Weed told the Associated Press.

The hail piled up "to the point that it looked like snow on the ground," he said.

Thursday's severe weather came just days after storms caused flooding and wind damage and led to three confirmed tornadoes in Maryland.

Both federal agencies in D.C. and the D.C. government were open Thursday, but employees had the option of taking unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.

Meanwhile, all Prince George's County Public Schools and offices closed at 1p.m. Thursday due to the threat of severe weather.

Frederick County Public Schools in Virginia also closed early. High school students were dismissed at noon, middle school students at 12:15 p.m. and elementary students at 1 p.m.

Thursday's storms were not as severe as the June 2012 derecho storm that battered the region. In fact, the first storm Thursday morning was the derecho that came from the Midwest, but that was not as bad as the afternoon storms, Kammerer said.

A derecho is a severe line of storms with straight line wind damage, gusts to 60 mph and wind damage spreading 250 miles long -- from D.C. to Raleigh, N.C., for example.

The D.C. region gets a derecho, on average, once every four years -- but last year's was so intense that it was categorized as a once-in-30-years event.

Nonetheless, local power companies said in advance of the storms that they were getting ready.

Le-ha Anderson of Dominion Virginia Power said Wednesday that crews were already on stand-by. "This is a situation where we could be looking at the possibility of widespread power outages," she said.

Pepco said last month that it's made preparations to be ready for this summer's storm season, including trimming trees and improving both underground and overhead power lines.

Stay with NBC4 and for more as this story develops. 


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