- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Utility companies restored electricity to thousands of homes in the Washington area yesterday, and contractors cleaned up debris and trees felled by high winds and heavy storms Thursday night, with more rain expected last night.

A flood watch was put in effect for the Washington area until midnight. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling, Va., said heavy thunderstorms would hit the metropolitan area around 8 or 9 p.m. but would lack the high winds.

Winds reached 40 mph Thursday night, causing serious damage to a number of properties in the District and Prince George’s County, and knocking out electricity to about 63,000 customers in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Potomac Electric Power Co. crews worked 16-hour shifts to restore electricity by late afternoon or early evening yesterday, and distributed dry ice in the parking lot of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Northwest. Most of the 34,000 Pepco customers who lost power were in the District and Prince George’s County.

Pepco said it did not expect to restore power to all customers until 2 a.m. but that more storms last night could push restoration back. Late in the afternoon, more than 9,000 Pepco customers remained without power.

Dominion Virginia Power had 29,000 customers without power at one point, but utility officials said that number was in the hundreds by midafternoon yesterday.

In Prince George’s County, several houses were struck by lightning, causing serious fires in at least two of them. Prince George’s firefighters also rescued several drivers from cars in high water.

About 30 trees fell onto roads in the District, a transportation official said, and traffic lights were knocked out at 23 intersections.

In two of the hardest-hit areas in the District, construction workers boarded up windows and placed plastic inside buildings where roofs were blown off or damaged by the storm. Residents of some buildings collected enough of their belongings to live elsewhere for as long as a month.

Two persons were injured and 25 others were displaced when the roof was blown off a building in the Faith Court Apartments on Morris Road at 16th Street SE. The flying roof snapped a power line, setting a car on fire.

High winds raised the roofs on two buildings in the Paradise Park Apartments, in the 3500 block of Jay Street NE. When the roofs came down, they shattered the buildings’ drywall ceilings and collapsed some apartments, displacing 46 families.

John Williams, a Jay Street resident, said his fiance, who was holding their 2-month-old son, was standing near a window that shattered. No one was seriously injured, but the 2-month-old was taken to a hospital for scratches on his face from broken glass.

“My kids almost got killed in this thing,” Mr. Williams, 22, said yesterday.

Another Jay Street dweller, Latonya Hawkins, was preparing yesterday to spend as long as a month at a relative’s house. Mrs. Hawkins had been taking her three children downstairs when her roof caved in Thursday. She was struck on the shoulder by drywall, and the house filled with dust and smoke, but no one was seriously injured.

Yesterday she had loaded all her clothes into the back of a pickup truck, then walked through her apartment, where workers used large shovels to pick up insulation piled 1 to 2 feet deep.

“You should have seen me last night,” said Mrs. Hawkins, 31. “I was mad. I’m OK now.”

One of the foremen directing the cleanup said the damage on Jay Street was caused by “tornadolike conditions.”

“The funnels hang up high sometimes, but they don’t classify it as a tornado unless it touches down,” said Poteat “Poe” Ramas, emergency services coordinator for Rolyn Construction. “It might have come down real quick and gone back up.”

Mr. Ramas said most of the displaced families would be able to return by Monday but that a few families would be displaced for about a month.

He estimated damage to the Paradise Park Apartments at $200,000 to $300,000.

“We’re sealing the roofs to make sure there’s no water damage over the weekend. That’s our main concern,” Mr. Ramas said.

The new Washington Convention Center went through a mishap Thursday afternoon when a roof drainage seal malfunctioned, causing water to leak inside the building.

“There was a gush of water coming down like a waterfall,” said Kathleen O’Neil, a member of the corporate communications department at Appian Corp., a software company in Vienna.

Appian was one of the exhibitors at the E-Gov 2003 Expo, an information technology show ending that day. The company had just finished packing its equipment when the water leaked into the room, Miss O’Neil said.

Tony Robinson, spokesman for the Washington Convention Center Authority, said the problem was minor and was fixed in 15 to 20 minutes.

“We had a leak, but we didn’t have a flood,” Mr. Robinson said.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority prepared for flooding last night, handing out sand bags to District residents at a temporary location in the 1200 block of South Capitol Street SE.

Three WASA water-pumping stations were out of power for part of the day. Two stations at Dean and Eastern avenues were restored late in the day, and the Upper Anacostia facility was powered by emergency generators.

Donna DeMarco contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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