- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

The Lyceum, a historical museum in Old Town Alexandria, survived the Civil War and 20th-century neglect but nearly succumbed to Wednesday’s violent weather when high winds toppled a large tree onto the south entrance colonnade.

Jim McKay, director of the museum, was not surprised the red oak nearly seriously damaged the Lyceum’s 1839 structure.

“This is a pretty sturdy building, but the tree was the biggest threat to us,” Mr. McKay said. “We asked the arborist to take it down, [but] it finally fell on its own, taking the colonnade roof with it.”

The National Weather Service confirmed that three tornados struck the area Wednesday: in the Maryland towns of Bel Alton and Huntingtown, as well as in Falls Church, where power lines fell across Metro tracks, blocking rush-hour commuters.

Reports of a possible tornado in Chesapeake Beach, Md., were also investigated.

The massive storm - which also caused damage in the Midwest - hit Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties and Northern Virginia hardest. Meteorologists refer to that type of storm as a “rightmover” - one that moves from west to east in a straight line.

A Delaware man, Huu Dai Pham, was killed in Fairfax when a tree struck the sport utility vehicle he was riding in. The victim was initially misidentified as a woman. The driver was hospitalized with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Earl Buffaloe of Bayview Hills in Chesapeake Beach, a board member of the Southern Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross, reported siding blown off his house: “It got very dark outside, and my wife herd a loud thud. That was a huge branch ripping off siding and taking my gutter with it.”

A tree fell on neighbor Jim Cirillo’s house. “I just feel lucky compared to the [others],” he said.

Power companies restored power to about 350,000 homes Thursday. An estimated 150,000 in the area were still without power Thursday evening. Utility crews, working in 80-degree heat and high humidity, expect to have electricity restored to most communities by late Friday, though some might have to wait until late Saturday.

In Potomac Electric Power Co.’s service area, Montgomery County and areas north of Rockville were hit hardest, a spokeswoman said.

At the Lyceum , the downed tree blocked an entrance and covered a parking lot, and crews worked all day to remove it. However, the museum remained open.

“Our parking lot will be unusable for quite some time,” Mr. McKay said.

John Noelle, the city arborist, said the tree was healthy and his office “was no more responsible for this damage than any other sustained during 60- to 80-mile per hour winds.”

He also denied that the museum had asked to have the tree removed.

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