State and federal agencies in the D.C. area began taking precautions early Thursday for the massive storm front barreling across the Midwest, which was leaving power outages, flooding and fallen trees in its wake.
Federal offices were open but the Office of Personnel Management had issued an alert that permitted non-emergency personnel to take unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework — a decision made to lesson the amount of traffic on the roads at rush hour, when the brunt of the storm was forecast to hit the District.
Prince George's County Public Schools announced it would be closing its schools and offices at 1 p.m. in advance of the storms and canceling its afternoon activities.
By 10 a.m. Maryland's Emergency Management Agency had moved its emergency operations center to a Level 2 response, meaning transportation, law enforcement, health and human resources personnel had been asked to come to the central location.
Agency spokesman Edward McDonough said the purpose of keeping department leaders nearby is "so they can move state assets around to help them."
"That's important to local emergency managers, " he added.
The state experienced thousands of power outages overnight, mostly in Carroll and Baltimore counties.
Mr. McDonough said the emergency center normally operates at Level 4, which is maintaining a 24-hour watch, while Level 3 means a few extra department personnel have been asked to come to the center in Baltimore County.
Level 1 would mean all agency representatives are called in to the center.
"We can expect damaging winds, potential waterspouts and tornadoes, heavy rainfall with the potential to cause flash flooding, and hail," the agency warned on its Facebook page.
An early surge of high winds Thursday morning prompted the temporary closure of the Bay Bridge, but lanes were reopened at about 11:30 a.m. Just before noon, Washington Dulles International Airport reported weather-related delays of 91 to 105 minutes.
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