- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2002

Severe thunderstorms swept through the area yesterday, causing scores of accidents, darkening traffic lights and knocking out power to thousands of homes. Two men were killed — one by a bolt of lightning, the other when a tree fell on his car.

Michael Paul Palmer, 55, was found on his rear deck in Frederick, Md., after being struck by lightning. He was not responsive when fire rescuers arrived, police said. He was pronounced dead at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Tony Eason, 35, of Southeast D.C., died after winds and rain uprooted a tree that fell on the car in which he and two women were traveling, at 17th and E streets SE just before 4:30 p.m., said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman. Some area residents complained that trees and branches were a constant danger because they have not been regularly maintained.

The cause of death was not yet clear. The women suffered what appear to be non-life-threatening injuries. All were transported to MedStar, where the man was pronounced dead at 6:02 p.m.

A 17-year-old boy was struck by lightning near a swimming pool at Fort Detrick in Frederick, police said. A hospital spokeswoman said his injuries were minor.

At about 5:30 p.m., more than 44,200 area residences had no electricity. Pepco spokesman Charles Taylor said more than 25,000 households in Montgomery County, 17,000 households in Prince George's County and 2,000 households in the District were affected by power outages.

At the worst point of the storm that included strong winds, hail and large amounts of rain, Fairfax County police were busy tending to 53 incidents that included collisions and security alarms being set off, said Denise Torelli, a police supervisor.

A wire that provided power to the Fairfax County Parkway and the Lee Jackson Memorial Highway fell, darkening as many 15 traffic lights, she said.

"There was a very hot and very humid air mass," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dewey Walston, speaking from his Sterling, Va., office. "When you get very hot, humid air, you get thunderstorms that develop sometimes."

The storm system's rains and winds cooled down the region, where peak temperatures were approaching 100 degrees in the area's second consecutive "Code Red" day. Mr. Walston said. A Code Red indicates that air quality is unhealthy.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport's temperature reached 97 degrees at 2:05 p.m. At 3:31 p.m., the temperature had dropped to 77 degrees.

Washington Dulles International Airport's temperature was 96 degrees at 1:33 p.m. At 2:30 p.m. it was 72 degrees.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport's temperature was 93 at 1:19 p.m. At 5:59 p.m. it was 75 degrees.

Hail was "scattered all over the place," Mr. Walston said. "Every area had a little bit. It's not like there's one area that stood out."He said some reports measured the hail as being one inch in diameter.

Central and eastern Montgomery County were subject to the severe-thunderstorm warning from 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m., said Pete Piringer, a county fire department spokesman.Lightning also struck a house at 5 p.m. in the Aspen Hill area, Mr. Piringer said. Three families who lived at 15108 Sunflower Court were displaced.

The Maryland State Police barrack at Forestville temporarily lost its power before emergency generators were activated, said Cpl. Rob Moroney, an agency spokesman."We are concerned for motorists driving on wet roads where there's been no rain for a while," Cpl. Moroney said, noting the College Park and Rockville barracks received 77 calls about traffic. "There were no serious collisions."

Arlington County eluded significant effects from the storm.

The traffic light at Army Navy and Eads streets was out because of strong winds, said Matt Martin, an Arlington County police spokesman."There were extra burglar and fire alarms," Mr. Martin said, "but there was nothing major."

The Council of Governments issued a Code Orange for today, which means air quality is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups such as the elderly and people with respiratory problems.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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