Tens of thousands lose power as storms pound D.C. area

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Ferocious winds and heavy rains plowed through the Washington area Saturday, knocking out power to tens of thousands, downing trees and prompting unconfirmed tornado reports.

Meteorologist Andy Woodcock of the National Weather Service said late Saturday afternoon that tornadolike funnel clouds were reported in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia and in Prince George’s County in Maryland.

Saturday evening, meteorologist Nikole Listemaa said staff had checked out the reported sighting in Northern Virginia but added that “there’s been no evidence of a tornado spotted in Fairfax County at this time.” The reported tornado in Prince George’s was still being investigated.

The storms were accompanied by a sudden temperature drop. At Washington Dulles International Airport, temperatures fell from 89 degrees at 3 p.m. to 64 degrees at 4 p.m., she said.

There were also reports of malfunctioning traffic lights, flooded roads, downed power lines and blown-out car windows in the area as thunder, heavy rains and winds with top speeds of 70 mph struck the region, part of a severe weather cold front stretching across much of the East Coast.

In Prince George’s County, emergency officials were attending to about a dozen people who, as the storm arrived, made a panicked rush for the exits at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the county fire and emergency management agency. Three people were being taken to the hospital for what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries at a county fair.

In Arlington, one person suffered minor injuries during a partial stage collapse at the Rosslyn Jazz Festival, a fire department spokesman said.

As of 11 p.m. Saturday, about 41,000 customers were without electricity in Northern Virginia, according to Dominion Virginia Power. Pepco was reporting outages to roughly 41,000 customers in the District of Columbia and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. BGE was reporting about 8,000 outages, most in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.

As many as 192,000 homes and businesses were without power late Saturday afternoon in the areas covered by these utilities.

“We are making great progress,” Le-Ha Anderson, a spokeswoman for Dominion Virginia Power, said at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday. She noted that the company had been able to restore power to about 60 percent of the affected households.

She said Alexandria and Arlington County were hit hard, as was Loudoun County, where winds of 69 mph were clocked. She said crews would be working around the clock to get the electricity back on at customers’ homes.

“We have crews working; they’ll be working through the night,” Ms. Anderson said. “And we have more crews coming in tonight and additional crews coming in (Sunday) morning.”

The storms didn’t cause anywhere near the damage of last June’s derecho, so Ms. Anderson said it would not take as many days to fully restore power, though she said she couldn’t yet give a precise timetable.

In the District of Columbia, there were reports of about 10 downed trees, including one that came down on a Southeast apartment building undergoing construction, said Christopher Geldart, the D.C. emergency management director. Six people had to be evacuated from the building. There were no reports of major flooding, he said.

Fairfax County officials reported three home cave-ins because of downed trees, a water rescue on the Potomac River and dozens of down electrical wires, said Dan Schmidt, a fire department spokesman.

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