- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Afternoon storms made for a harrowing commute yesterday, as fallen power lines closed the Capital Beltway in both directions, downed trees delayed rail service and more than 150,000 homes and businesses lost power in Maryland, the District and Virginia.

The heavy rains, which were accompanied by strong wind gusts, lightning and penny-size hail, began moving through the region at about 4 p.m.

About 141,000 customers in Maryland and the District were without power at the height of the storm, Pepco officials said. Most of those outages were in Montgomery County. In Northern Virginia, about 50,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers were left in the dark. The biggest concentrations were in Alexandria and Herndon.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Maryland State Police closed the Beltway in both directions near the Greenbelt Metro station because of fallen power lines that electrified guardrails. No one was reported hurt, but the Beltway was closed for nearly an hour as emergency crews shut down power and removed the fallen lines. The lanes were reopened by 6 p.m.

In the District, a massive oak tree about 5 feet in diameter fell on two cars and a home, taking down some power lines with it at Ingomar and 38th streets in Northwest.

“It was a violent shaking, like an earthquake,” said Shaun Snyder, whose home was hit by the tree.

Mr. Snyder, who lives with his mother and stepfather, was alone in the house when the tree hit. “It’s funny, the tree hit the part of the house I’m usually in. Just so happens I was on the other side of the house, looking for flashlights and candles.”

The roots of the fallen tree also hit the family’s van, making it undriveable. “So unfortunately, we got a two-fer,” Mr. Snyder said.

Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said one woman was taken to a hospital with minor injuries after a tree fell on her car at 17th Street and Mount Olivet Road NE.

“There were trees and wires down all over the city,” Mr. Etter said. He said rescue crews were “running around like crazy.”

Fire investigators were also trying to determine whether lightning was responsible for a two-alarm fire that broke out in a residence at 19th and Kearney streets NE. One man was in the home at the time, but he was not hurt. Witnesses reported hearing a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder moments before the fire started.

The storms also caused trouble on MARC’s Brunswick Line, where trees fell across the tracks near Germantown. Delays were held to about 20 minutes.

Prince George’s County Fire/EMS spokesman Capt. Chauncey Bowers said there were no injuries reported there, though a collapse crew last night was still inspecting a particularly hard-hit section of Old Bowie to determine whether anyone was trapped in homes or vehicles by fallen trees or power lines.

Capt. Bowers said about 40,000 people lost power in the county.

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