- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A line of thunderstorms that stretched from Pennsylvania to Virginia walloped the D.C.-area Tuesday afternoon, toppling trees, knocking out power to thousands, and flooding roads as commuters started their evening trip home.

Gray skies and residual showers stayed in the area as emergency crews worked to clean up the damage left in the storms’ wake, but weather officials said residents would be in the clear by Wednesday morning and the remaining work week’s forecast looked sunny and dry.

“The morning rush hour should be drastically different,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Peloquin said. “The water issues from [Tuesday] afternoon and evening should also come to an end.”

Warm and cool air meeting above the D.C.-area were to blame for the volatile weather, officials said, which brought as much as 2 to 4 inches of rain in some areas. Wind gusts as strong as 61 mph were measured at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

A tornado watch for the region was canceled by 6:30 p.m., and Mr. Peloquin said he had not heard of any tornado reports or funnel cloud sightings.

The area dodged the weather’s worst case scenario, but reports of damage were still widespread.

Prince George’s County Police Department’s headquarters in Palmer Park lost power around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Back-up generators kept some power running in the building for basic operations, but phone lines were not working, spokesman Cpl. Larry Johnson said. Officials said police patrols were not effected by the outage.

Prince George’s emergency crews were dispatched to remove a large tree that was blocking traffic on eastbound Suitland Parkway. A house in Cheverly sustained moderate damage when it was hit by a large falling tree, but the resident was not injured.

In the District, a number of homes and businesses in Northeast and Southeast were without power, and drivers had to find alternative routes around some main areas blocked by fallen trees or standing water.

The D.C. area has seen its fair share of severe storms and damaging winds this summer, most recently a Sept. 8 storm that darkened nearly 200,000 homes.

In late June, a microburst damaged more than a dozen homes in Bladensburg after 60 mph winds tore through the area, and just before the July 4 holiday a rare derecho storm that started in the Midwest careened through the area, downing power lines and knocking over hundreds of trees. At the height of that storm’s fallout, more than 1 million people were without power and some were left in the dark for more than a week while power companies struggled to cut through debris and reach damaged lines.

Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey said at the height of the storm about 14,000 people were without power and by 7 p.m. about 3,600 customers in the District were without power.

“This was a very slow-moving system,” Mr. Hainey said. “We expected it to linger for quite some time. This was a very basic steady rain and wind storm.”

Mr. Hainey said the winds did some damage to power lines, but crews would likely be working through the night to get customers back on line.

Dominion Power reported that about 7,000 customers were without power during the height of the storm, though spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said that between 15,000 and 20,000 customers were impacted at any one time on Tuesday.

“Thank goodness we didn’t have any tornadoes,” she said. “What we did experience were wind gusts up to about 30 to 35 mph. The system can typically handle that sort of wind gust.”

Ms. Anderson said the company’s team of meteorologists had provided weather forecast updates as far back as Friday, so Dominion was able to make sure enough crews and equipment were on standby for the storm.

“I think we were able to stay on top of the outages,” Ms. Anderson said, adding that she anticipated all the customer outages would be restored by Tuesday night.

In western Maryland, the weeklong Great Frederick Fair was forced to close early on Tuesday, a decision the fair’s general manager Becky Brashear said was “the right decision to make.”

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