- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

A series of quick but powerful thunderstorms that ripped through the Washington area caused extensive damage to a Prince George’s County airport yesterday and left thousands of residents without electricity.

The storm yesterday at about 5 p.m. took direct aim at the Washington Executive Airpark, flipping a plane and partially shearing the roof off a hangar. Airpark manager Stan Fetter reported no injuries, but could not provide a damage estimate. He also said the plane had leaked only a small amount of gasoline.

“I’ve got some buildings and some roofs to worry about,” Mr. Fetter said. “That plane is not going anywhere.”

Prince George’s County officials said yesterday’s storm also caused some minor traffic accidents and snapped trees and utility lines, but reported no major injuries.

The storm Sunday night, at about 9 p.m., tracked mostly through Montgomery County and caused the most damage to the neighborhoods of Kensington, Wheaton and upper Georgia Avenue.

Pete Piringer, a Montgomery County fire and rescue spokesman, said lightning struck some homes, but caused no significant fires.

No serious injuries were reported Sunday night, either, but there were some close calls.

Jeannie and Mike Fanning rushed with their 2-year-old daughter to the center of their Wheaton home when they heard a thud on their den roof.

“Everything was hitting the windows,” Mrs. Fanning said. “We didn’t know what had fallen. We looked out the window and there was a tree spinning and bouncing on our house.”

Not until the winds died down did she realize all but one door was blocked by fallen trees and debris.

Once outside, Mrs. Fanning discovered a large maple tree had been uprooted and had smashed into her home, leaving three holes in the roof and smashing the brick chimney.

She said it will cost about $5,000 just to remove the tree.

“Everybody had a tree down around here,” Mrs. Fanning also said. “It was like a war zone.”

The Fannings were among many Montgomery County residents home yesterday to clear the debris from their lawns and sidewalks, even as clouds gathered with the threat of more heavy weather.

Charles Taylor, spokesman for the Potomac Electric Power Co., said that trees falling on power lines Sunday night caused about 11,200 customer to lose power.

That number was down to 3,300 customers by yesterday evening, at least until the second storm arrived.

Mr. Taylor said that as of yesterday, about 5,500 customers were still without power, including 3,900 in Montgomery County, 1,200 in Prince George’s County and 400 in the District.

William Asbury, a foreman with Moyer’s Lawn Service, said yesterday his four-man crew had been out since 8 a.m. cleaning yards and chopping fallen trees so residents could get in their driveways and through the streets.

Mr. Asbury said many homes in the Wheaton area had at least some minor wind damage.

Though the National Weather Service reported peak winds of 40 mph, meteorologist Chris Strong said damage indicated speeds as high as 60 mph.

Pat Wigmore returned to her Wheaton home after Sunday’s storm to find a tree from her neighbor’s yard leaning on her roof and a tree from her own yard dangling broken branches into her neighbor’s yard.

“I thought, ‘Oh boy, we have really come home to something sensational,’” she said.

Mrs. Wigmore also spent much of yesterday afternoon clearing debris from the streets, and said she was just waiting for her insurance agency to assess the damage.

Still, she considered herself lucky because two nearby neighbors had their cars damaged by falling branches. “I just hope the county will come soon with their grinder and grind everything up and take it away,” she said.

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