- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gusty winds and heavy rain swept through the region yesterday afternoon — remnants of a severe storm system that spawned deadly tornadoes in the South.

The storm reached the area yesterday morning, dumping more than an inch of rain everywhere before moving toward New Jersey and New York by late afternoon. Montgomery County appeared to lead the way with 2 to 4 inches in Gaithersburg and Damascus. At the official sites at the airports, Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National got just over an inch of rain; Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International measured 2.2 inches.

No major damage or deaths were reported in the area, but the storm created numerous problems, especially for afternoon commuters.

Maryland highway officials closed several state roads, including a section of the Capital Beltway between Maryland 210 and Maryland 414 in Prince George’s County.

Montgomery County emergency crews performed several water rescues, said county spokesman Pete Piringer.

Downed trees and power lines were reported in Silver Spring, and minor flooding occurred on River Road in Bethesda, causing multiple traffic accidents.

In Virginia, flash flooding trapped motorists and residents in high water and shut down sections of roads statewide, including some Interstate 95 exit ramps. The state’s transportation department said about 70 roads — most of them secondary — were closed yesterday afternoon.

The region quickly began preparations for the storms, particularly in Old Town Alexandria, a flood-prone area next to the Potomac River. Residents and merchants lined their doors with sandbags as floodwater edged toward storefronts. Significant flooding also occurred in the Huntington community of Fairfax County.

Earlier in the day, the storm spawned a tornado in Columbus County, N.C., killing at least eight persons, authorities said.

The storm system is responsible for at least 12 deaths since Wednesday.

The system was weakened by the time it hit the region, but still prompted weather forecasters to issue tornado watches and school officials to cancel evening activities.

The National Weather Service posted tornado watches for the District, suburban Maryland and parts of Northern Virginia.

Flood warnings were in effect for the Baltimore-Washington area throughout much of the afternoon. Heavy bands of rain moved through the area, producing several inches of precipitation in some areas through midafternoon.

By late yesterday afternoon, Baltimore Gas & Electric reported more than 41,000 outages — about 34,000 in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

Dominion Virginia Power reported about 5,400 outages late yesterday, most of which were near Richmond and in the southeast region of the state.

About 3,800 Potomac Electric Power Co. customers were still without power yesterday, about 2,250 of which were in Montgomery County.

In North Carolina, a car-crash death near Charlotte also was blamed on the storms. Dozens of homes were destroyed along the Cape Fear River about 20 miles west of the coastal city of Wilmington, said Gov. Michael F. Easley’s office.

Another person died earlier in Louisiana.

In Mississippi’s Lamar County, emergency operations center Director James Smith said a possible tornado struck a subdivision outside Sumrall at about 2:50 a.m., damaging or destroying 11 homes.

Mr. Smith said six persons were taken to hospitals from the Sumrall area. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said two other persons were injured in Greene County.

On Wednesday, high winds destroyed a Montgomery, Ala., skating rink soon after 31 preschoolers and four adults had fled to the only part of the building that turned out to be safe.

One child had a broken bone and another a cut to the head, but everyone else emerged unharmed from the crumpled wreck of the Fun Zone Skate Center, which doubled as a day care facility.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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