- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

Powerful, chilly winds blew through the Midwest and into the metropolitan area yesterday, causing power outages, traffic accidents and downed trees, leaving at least two persons seriously injured.

The winds caused a large tree and power lines to fall, striking Alison Baker, 14, in the head as she waited for a school bus in front of her Sterling, Va., home at about 8:20 yesterday morning, said Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Troxell said a neighbor who is a paramedic helped stop the bleeding until a rescue squad arrived and airlifted the teenager from her home in the 100 block of Lakeland Drive to Children’s Hospital in the District. The Dominion High School student sustained a skull fracture and burns, but is recovering, hospital officials said last night.

A 30-year-old man was hit by a falling tree branch while walking at the River Creek Golf Course near Leesburg, Va. He was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was in serious condition, Loudoun County authorities said.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for most of the region through last night, urging residents to drive carefully and to tie down loose items around their homes.

Meteorologists said a cold front meeting warmer air caused sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph, with gusts of nearly 70 mph. The high winds wreaked havoc throughout the region, ripping roofs from buildings, uprooting trees and downing power lines.

More than 62,000 customers were without power in Baltimore and in Prince George’s, Montgomery, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel counties yesterday afternoon, Baltimore Gas & Electric officials said.

Potomac Electric Power Co. reported about 58,000 outages, mostly in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, while Virginia Dominion had 47,000 reported outages, more than 37,000 of them in Northern Virginia.

Montgomery County fire officials reported receiving about 80 calls about downed trees and power lines in about five hours — four times the normal volume. No serious injuries were reported.

A gas line was ignited by sparks from downed power lines in the 9100 block of Fairview Road in Silver Spring. There was a basement fire in one home, and Washington Gas shut off the gas service for two others.

There were also no serious injuries in Prince George’s County, where officials reported 450 emergency calls before 5 p.m. The county’s 911 center usually handles about 300 calls a day.

Twenty schools in Prince George’s that lost power were closed yesterday and officials will announce today whether any of those schools will remain closed.

Investigators believe the weather was responsible for the collapse of a 200-foot section of a three-story wall around a garden center at a Lowe’s home improvement store in Bowie. The collapse forced closure of the building at Heritage Drive and Route 197, but no one was hurt.

In the District, two persons were slightly injured when a portion of the roof blew off a home in Southeast, fire department spokesman Alan Etter said. And a crane being used for construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge blew over onto a barge on the Potomac River, fire officials said. No one was injured.

No injuries were reported in a large fire at a Pepco transformer in Southeast, Mr. Etter said. Investigators believed the weather was to blame.

“We have a number of wires down across the city and a number of trees down as well,” he said.

Traffic lights were dark at some intersections during the evening rush hour, and police urged drivers to treat those intersections like four-way stops if no officer was present to direct traffic.

Because of the high winds, departures and arrivals at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport were delayed at least 20 minutes, the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority reported. A spokesperson for Baltimore-Washington International Airport said despite scattered delays and a few cancellations, the airport ran on schedule.

The Maryland Transportation Authority issued wind restrictions for three of its bridges: the Key Bridge, Nice Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which was closed briefly yesterday. Restrictions, put into effect when sustained winds reach 40 mph, bar vehicles at risk of overturning while crossing the bridges. Those vehicles include empty box trucks, tractor-trailers and motorcycles.

On the Severn River Bridge on Route 50, wind overturned an empty U.S. Postal Service truck about 1:30 p.m., a Maryland State Police spokesman said. No one was injured but it snarled traffic for several hours.

Trees fell onto overhead wires, causing the loss of all signal power to the MARC commuter rail system between New Carrollton and Halethorpe and delaying some morning trains up to 30 minutes, the Maryland Transit Administration said. Amtrack service also experienced delays.

The weather system also brought the season’s first snowflakes to the mountains of far Western Maryland, authorities said. Snow flurries began early yesterday in Garrett and Allegany counties, with minor accumulations in grassy areas.

In West Virginia, where heavy rain caused flooding, a car drove around a firetruck and into a swift-moving, overflowing creek, killing a man, said Bill White, Kanawha County Emergency Services director. About 25 people in the area were trapped in their homes by high water, and more than 100 students were stranded at schools past midnight in adjacent Lincoln County.

As much as 41/2 inches of rain fell on some parts of the state Wednesday, followed by yesterday’s gusty winds.

In the Midwest, gusts of up to 74 mph knocked down trees and power lines, causing some 330,000 customers in Michigan to lose power. Scores of schools canceled classes, and a live power line fell across Interstate 94 near Detroit Metropolitan Airport, creating a major traffic jam.

In Southern California, hail remained on the ground yesterday, a day after a freak storm from another weather system pummeled the area with 5 inches of rain and hail. Thousands lost power and firefighters rescued more than 100 motorists and pedestrians from waist-deep water.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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