- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

A powerful storm that dropped sleet and snow across much of the country this week brought high winds and power outages to the Washington area yesterday.

The storm was expected to push the region’s record-breaking 74-degree temperatures to the mid-40s today. Yesterday’s temperatures broke the record 71 degrees set in 2001, the National Weather Service reported.

Wind gusts as high as 40 mph toppled trees in many neighborhoods and knocked out electricity to thousands of residences in the region. Because of the winds, Maryland transportation officials did not implement two-way traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm advisory, but it was lifted early last night.

“We got the strong winds as the front worked its way through the region,” said Calvin Meadows, with the National Weather Service. “We didn’t have quite enough moisture to fuel the [anticipated] thunderstorms. But it is still a strong cold front moving through as advertised.”

Temperatures are expected to be in the 40s and 50s this weekend.

At the peak of the storm, the region’s utility companies reported more than 16,000 power outages in Northern Virginia, the Maryland suburbs and the District. Most of the power was restored by late last night.

Cleanup crews also were busy, clearing roads of downed trees and branches that blocked some neighborhood streets. Downed trees were reported in several neighborhoods in Bethesda, Kensington and Arlington.

The warm temperatures across the region yesterday were in stark contrast to the ice and snow in the Midwest that shut down schools, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands and stranded airline passengers.

Locally, most airlines canceled flights to the Midwest, officials said.

The storm was blamed for at least five traffic deaths as it cut a swath from Texas to Michigan, spreading snow and freezing rain and closing schools and businesses.

Ice-covered power lines contributed to as many as 2.4 million Illinois residents’ losing electricity yesterday afternoon.

Chicago received 6.2 inches of snow, and many areas of Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri got more than a foot.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency and put the National Guard on standby after snow and ice blanketed much of the state, knocking out power to thousands of residents and causing at least two deaths.

The Red Cross and local authorities opened shelters and warming centers in St. Louis and across the state for residents who were unable to heat their homes, said Susie Stonner with the state’s emergency management agency.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius declared a disaster emergency for 27 counties.

About 520,000 customers in Illinois and Missouri were without power early yesterday after ice snapped power lines and tree limbs.

The combination of sleet, rain and snow made driving treacherous. In Milwaukee, the slippery roads were too much for vehicle after vehicle — even a snowplow overturned.

Near Paducah, Texas, a sport utility vehicle carrying a high school girls’ basketball team slid on an icy patch and tipped over, killing a 14-year-old player and injuring six teammates and the coach. The tournament the Paducah High School team was headed to was canceled.

Airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest hubs, canceled 450 flights early in the day.

The canceled flights did not create large crowds trying to make alternative plans at Washington Dulles International Airport or Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates local airports.

By last night, operations at O’Hare were beginning to get back to normal.

Of the seven flights last night from O’Hare airport to Reagan Airport, five were on schedule and two were canceled, according to Reagan Airport’s Web site.

At the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport last night, two of the six flights coming from Chicago were canceled and one was delayed.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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