WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Thousands are still without power after a massive storm system brought torrential rains, heavy winds and possibly tornadoes to the Mid-Atlantic Thursday.
The severe weather was also blamed for two deaths.
On Friday morning, there were about 8,000 customers in the dark around the Washington metropolitan area.
Officials are say they hopeful crews will be able to fully restore power by the end of Friday.
Power Outages (as of 4:50 p.m.)
Mostly in Montgomery County
Mostly in Arlington
The outages are forcing a number of schools to be closed Friday.
Montgomery County Public Schools say Sligo Middle School and Blair Ewing Center will not open.
In Anne Arundel County, Georgetown East Elementary School is not open for the final day of school because of a blown transformer in the area. School officials say the academic year for students will not be extended.
The storm came and went in the Washington, D.C., area ahead of the evening rush hour, bringing winds and thunder that knocked trees onto houses, cut power to thousands of homes and traffic signals and led to the brief closure of a bridge that connects to the beaches on Maryland’s Eastern shore.
Officials say they received reports of a tornado touching down near the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Norbeck Road in the Aspen Hill area of Montgomery County.
National Weather Service officials will be working in Rockville Friday to asses damage and determine if the damage was caused by a tornado or straight line winds.
A funnel cloud was also spotted in the Olney area.
“The wind was pretty bad. It was just a squall that came through really fast,” said Jim Estes, director of instruction at a golf driving range in Olney, a Washington suburb where one tornado was reported.
In Richmond, Va., a 4-year-old boy was fatally struck by a tree that toppled while he was visiting a park with his father. Capt. Emmett Williams of the Richmond police said the boy was crushed by an old yellow tulip poplar tree that became uprooted from rain-soaked grounds during heavy winds and rains. The father was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Maymont Park board member Mary Lynn Bayliss said workers with bullhorns were scrambling around the 100 acres of preserved woodlands and gardens to try to get people to safety.
And during an initial wave of morning storms, a 19-year-old woman who works as an intern at Plumpton Park Zoo in Rising Sun, Md., northeast of Baltimore, was struck by lightning while feeding the animals. She was being treated at a hospital after a co-worker performed CPR.
Lightning from the first of two fast-moving storms may have sparked a fire that killed a western Pennsylvania man early Thursday, the state fire marshal said.
Dire predictions from forecasters, including warnings throughout the region of tornadoes and thunderstorms, led to precautions throughout several states.
Maryland transit officials briefly closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a critical artery connecting the Baltimore-Washington area with Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Customers and employees of Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were directed at one point to seek shelter, in a bathroom or in the lowest level of the terminal, amid the threat of tornadoes.
Flightstats.com reported that hundreds of flights were cancelled and thousands more were delayed at East Coast and Midwest airports on Thursday, with the New York-Washington corridor particularly affected.
Last year, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington, killing 13 people and leaving more than 4 million people without power, according to the weather service. Winds reached nearly 100 mph in some places. In addition to the people killed in the storm, 34 more died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.
A derecho is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. The systems are distinctive and take on a comma or bow shape, and usually have a large area of very cold cloud tops not typically seen in an ordinary thunderstorm.
The term derecho was coined in 1888, said Ken Pryor, a research meteorologist at the Center for Satellite Applications and Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in College Park, Md. The word is Spanish for “straight ahead” or “direct,” Pryor said.
The structure of a derecho-producing storm looks distinctive in radar and satellite imagery, Pryor said. “The systems are very large and have signatures that are very extreme,” he said. “You get large areas of very cold cloud tops that you typically wouldn’t see with an ordinary thunderstorm complex. The storms take on a comma or a bow shape that’s very distinctive.”
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