Washington-area outages ‘almost unprecedented’

Scorching heat adds to woes as residents wait for electricity

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Surveying the end of his block, which was impassable because of an enormous tree that stretched across the roadway and across the roof of a car, Tom Hewson said his home was spared but is now serving as a recharging station for neighbors’ electronics.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley toured cooling centers Sunday morning in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

“There’s been an unprecedented number of outages in a very unprecedented sort of storm,” he said. “We’ve made some progress, but we still have a lot more work to do.”

Mr. O'Malley said at an evening news briefing that the state was suffering from an unexpected blow.

“We took a hurricane punch without the three to four days of hurricane warning,” Mr. O'Malley said.

The wind was what made the storm so deadly and powerful when it tore through the area late Friday night, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Elliott.

The storm, called a derecho, is a “large, long-lived area of very strong, very straight-line wind,” Mr. Elliott said.

Winds hit 60 mph all the way from Indiana to the D.C. area, Mr. Elliott said, and “it didn’t help that it hit 104 that day. All that heat and energy was still around when the storm got here.”

The area last endured a derecho in 2006, but this one, Mr. Elliott said, “was worse.”

“I do want to be clear that what happened Friday night isn’t very likely to happen again. We could see storms that could be severe, but a wide swath like that is very rare.”

Nonessential Maryland state employees have been granted liberal leave Monday, Mr. O'Malley said.

Prince George’s County schools and offices are closed Monday. Montgomery County schools and all events are canceled on Monday and Tuesday.

At 6 p.m., Pepco said about 185,000 of its 310,000 Montgomery County customers were without power.

Pepco President Tom Graham said outages could remain until Friday — a timeline that Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett called “unacceptable” during a morning news conference with Mr. O'Malley in Gaithersburg.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III shared similar sentiments for his county, which had 83,000 of 226,000 customers suffering outages.

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