The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Storms leave thousands without power
FROM STAFF REPORTS
Crews will be working around the clock to restore electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses in the Fredericksburg area following a wave of violent thunderstorms that left two people dead in Northern Virginia.
Spotsylvania County Fire and Rescue spokesman Phil Sullivan said the storms caused at least two major house fires in the county, destroying both homes. The residents escaped injury in one and one house was vacant. But two firefighters were taken to Mary Washington Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, he said. He did not have their current conditions.
Storms from the Midwest barreled into the Fredericksburg area Friday evening, downing trees and power lines. More than 2 million customers in Washington, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio lost power.
More than 100,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers in the Fredericksburg area were without power as of this morning. The utility reported that 452,631 customers in the Northern Virginia area were in the dark, and a total of 796,946 customers in Virginia had lost power.
“It will probably be a multi-day outage,” said Rick Zuercher, a Dominion spokesman. “The damage was catastrophic in many cases.”
Statewide, 79 hospitals are using generators for power, and Zuercher said restoring those and other public safety customers will be a top priority.
Ann Lewis, a spokeswoman for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, said the utility had more than 60,000 customers without power as of this morning. She expects that REC’s outage also will last multiple days.
The utilities have asked for help from peers in other states.
In the Fredericksburg area, Stafford County seems to have been hit the hardest.
More than 60,000 customers of Dominion, REC and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative were without power this morning. Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, which serves a small part of Stafford, could not be reached this morning for an outage report.
Stafford County spokeswoman Cathy Vollbrecht said fire and rescue officials were assessing damage from the storm as the sun came up this morning.
“They’re out there clearing roads,” she said. “There are lots of trees down.”
She said officials were also working to find a good location for a cooling shelter.
Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, said the system that came through the Washington area is known as a derecho, which the weather service describes as “a widespread, long-lived wind system that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.” Although a derecho can produce tornado-like damage, the damage is typically along a mostly straight path.
Jackson said the storms originated in the Midwest, passed over the Appalachian mountains and then re-strengthened, drawing energy and direction from a ridge of high pressure centered over the southeastern United States.
“It’s one of those storms, it just plows through,” Jackson said. “It’s able to maintain itself and it’s associated with very strong wind gusts. So we have widespread 60- , 70-, 80-, even isolated 90-mile-an-hour, wind gusts associated with it.”
He said the storm toppled trees and damaged structures, in what he called “very, very widespread, large-scale damage.”
In the Fredericksburg area, the Weather Service reported wind gusts of 80 mph in the city and 66 mph in the Holly Corner area of Stafford.
Friday’s record-setting high temperatures made the storms more intense, Jackson said.
“It added to the strength of the storm,” he said. “In a sense, there was more energy available for the storm to use.
More thunderstorms are likely to roll into the region this afternoon, but Jackson said he doesn’t expect them to be as fierce as Friday night’s round.
Police in northern Virginia say a 90-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell onto her home and they’re responding to reports of other injuries stemming from storms that ravaged the mid-Atlantic region.
Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings says the woman was killed in the Springfield area during the height of the storm.
The Washington Post reported that a tree fell on a car at Old Keene Mill Road and Bauer Drive, killing the male driver, according to Fairfax police.
Jennings says authorities elsewhere in the county also were responding to reports of a Park Police officer whose car was hit by a tree and an 18-year-old man struck by a power line.
Metrorail trains were returned to their endpoints due to the storms and related damage, officials tweeted.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said some Red Line service had been suspended due to a weather-related outage. Delays were reported on the Blue and Orange lines, buses were replacing trains on some routes and crews were busy removing downed trees.
“It has had a widespread effect on the region,” Stessel said early Saturday today. He said about 17 train stations were operating on backup power due to local power outages, but that he didn’t anticipate service being disrupted on Saturday.