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Powerful Storm Leaves Thousands in Dark, Kills One

Severe winds, lightning, and torrential rain swept through Montgomery and Prince George's counties. 'Everyone thought they were going to die,' one resident wrote.

Last update: 3:20 p.m.

A powerful storm with wind gusts up to 60 mph struck a brief but hard blow on Montgomery and Prince George's counties Friday night, leaving hundreds of thousands without power in a potentially dangerous heat wave.

One person was killed in Montgomery County, according to police.

Residents hunkered down against the wind, flashes of lightning and driving rain as the National Weather Service issued severe storm warnings. Large swaths of Montgomery County and Prince George's County lost power in what meteorologists have identified as a derecho.

As of 3:00 p.m. Saturday, some 224,540 customers (73 percent) in Montgomery County and 130,183 customers (58 percent) in Prince George's County were without service, according to Pepco. 

Officials also said about 500 out of 800 traffic signals in Montgomery County were dark as of Saturday morning.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission issued mandatory water restrictions for all Montgomery and Prince George’s County customers after the storms reportedly knocked out power to WSSC’s two water filtration plants.

The body 71-year-old woman was discovered Saturday morning when fire and rescue personnel responded to a call for a downed tree in the 10000 block of Grant Avenue in Silver Spring. She was apparently killed when a large Maple tree fell through the roof and onto her bed.

Meanwhile, a tree that fell across Brookville Road near Thornapple Street in Section 3 of the Village of Chevy Chase didn't fall onto any houses, but it was still frightening enough that "everyone thought they were going to die," according to resident Edward Ponzi.

A drive around the Kensington and Bethesda areas proved hazardous before dawn, with major roads, including Connecticut Avenue, blocked by downed trees. Traffic lights at major intersections, including East-West Highway, were dark, and roads were littered with debris.

Police and work crews were out setting up roadblocks for downed trees and conducting cleanup.

Part of the roof of Park Tanglewood apartments, a seven-story building in Riverdale Park, was torn off by the high winds, displacing hundreds of residents.

The Washington Post reported that, in all, more than 1.5 million homes and businesses across Maryland and Virginia lost power. A Pepco spokeswoman said some customers could be without service for multiple days.

Highs on Saturday were around 100°, with more storms expected between 4 and 8 p.m.

"It's pretty brutal with no AC in this kind of heat," Greenbelt resident Fred Wilcox told Patch Saturday afternoon. "…It could really be life threatening for other people."

Cooling centers have been opened in both and counties, while many pools in Prince George's will be holding extended hours and waiving admission fees on Saturday.

To report power outages, call Pepco at 877-737-2662.

This story was updated at 6:50 p.m. with additional quotes.

What happened to you during the storm? Tell us in comments and post your photos.

Vito June 30, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Take ya seatbelt off and 3 of them will be on you
jag July 01, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Hey Pepco, I'll be okay with your prospective rate increase if you're okay with replacing all the food in fridge every time your power goes out all day. Deal?
Emil July 01, 2012 at 02:33 AM
No power in Takoma Park, but Georgia ave has power. Jag: I agree! I am pissed at wasting a frig full of food. Pepco, you want a rate hike? Pay for my wasted food!
Kirk Marchand July 01, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Ocean City got the same storm, except instead of 60 mile an hour winds it was 100 mile an hour wionds. Power didn't even go off for 1 second, everything is fine. What does BGE do that PEPCO doesn't?
Molly M July 03, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Mary, I hope you see this and respond. Thanks for your report. We recently moved from Indian Head, had a house on Strauss Ave, near George's Ribs. Wondering if trees are down there and how the rest of the town is doing? How long was power off? How bad was the storm? Feel like we really dodged a bullet!!

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