Destructive winds gusting as high as 84 mph toppled trees onto roads and houses Saturday and knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses as one of the fiercest thunderstorms in months swept in late afternoon across the Washington metropolitan area.
The Power Outage US website reported about 225,000 utility customers without electricity in Maryland and Virginia about 6 p.m. Pepco reported that about 15,000 customers in the District had lost power.
At least two injuries were reported; one person was seriously injured and a second suffered minor injuries when a tree fell on a car in the 2900 block of Foxhall Road NW in the District.
Police in Prince William County said they were investigating the death of a man found after a tree fell onto a house in the Dumfries area.
Severe damage to trees, structures and the electrical grid was reported in both city and suburb. The storm hit hard in such spots as the Adams Morgan, Dupont and Sheridan Circle neighborhoods in Northwest Washington.
Tree debris blocked streets and roads in neighborhoods throughout the area, including Cleveland Park and Glover Park in the city and the Rockville and Takoma Park sections of the Maryland suburbs.
The National Zoo said it would close Sunday for storm cleanup.
Trees toppled on roads both minor and major, including the Baltimore Washington Parkway in Prince George’s County, Interstate 95 near Dumfries in Prince William County, the Capital Beltway and the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Fairfax County, and Interstate 66 in Arlington County.
On I-66 in Arlington, motorists left their cars on the rain-slicked roadway to try to move a huge tree trunk out of the way.
Many stately streets in such neighborhoods as the city’s Wesley Heights became scenes of leaf-strewn chaos, as tangles of wires and tree branches lay askew across lawns, roofs and cars.
A tree fell onto an apartment house on Queen Street in the Trinidad area of Northeast Washington, the fire department said. Residents were evacuated. Evacuations also ensued after part of the roof was torn off an apartment house in the 3200 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW in the District.
The extent of the damage appeared to reflect the strength of the winds reported throughout the area as the storm swept southeastward in the hour after 4 p.m.
At the official measuring station at Reagan National Airport, a wind gust of 60 mph was reported, and even stronger gusts were reported elsewhere. A weather station at the Mount Vernon campus of George Washington University recorded an 84-mph gust.
In the late afternoon of a 97-degree day, the storms could be seen darkening skies to the northwest of the District.
Update – 2 houses in 12200blk Charles Rd, tree down on two structures, no injuries, 10 occupants displaced. Red Criss assisting pic.twitter.com/SOSRzpohiT
— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) July 29, 2023
A glance to the south around 4 p.m. showed blue skies, but the dark gray clouds of the storm loomed in the northwest, and streamed implacably southeastward across Montgomery County, into the District and toward Prince George’s and Southern Maryland.
Thunder crashed, lightning flickered, and rain fell in dense, windblown sheets.
Water rose on streets and roads, buildings vanished from view, and those trees and branches that remained intact swayed and bent before the fierce gusts.