Severe Thunderstorms Ravage Parts of Maryland, D.C.

Barrington M. Salmon | 6/28/2012, 11 a.m.

A string of severe thunderstorms that recently swept through parts of the Washington metropolitan area, left behind a trail of devastation.

What one meteorologist called a "straight line" storm and other weather watchers and Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker described as a "micro-burst" with winds as high as 100 miles an hour. As a result, apartment buildings were left without roofs, trees toppled, tree branches snapped, downed power lines disrupted electricity, cable and cellular services -- drivng scores of Prince George's County residents into temporary shelters for much of the weekend of June 22.

The storm - which lasted between 10 and 15 minutes - left 45,000 people without power. Hardest hit were the cities of Bladensburg, Cheverly, Hyattsville and portions of wards 4 and 5 in the District of Columbia. Some 16,000 District customers were left in the dark with outages almost evenly distributed between wards 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, with 1,500 to 4,000 outages in each area.

"We are very, very blessed. We have had significant damage but only minor injuries," Baker spokesman Scott Peterson said on Saturday morning. "Investigators are on the scene, the Red Cross is helping out and Family and Social Services employees are helping out."

Peterson said residents from 15 multi-family dwellings and a family living in a single-family home were temporarily housed at Rogers Heights Elementary School. Late in the day on Saturday, they were moved to Bladensburg High School.

Some who experienced the storm spoke reverently of its fury, the severity and intensity of the rainfall, the fierce winds and golf-sized hailstones which battered residences and vehicles. A local television station showed a van with pieces of wood impaled in its rear door, while elsewhere the destruction included scenes of uprooted trees and an injured homeowner.

In one instance, Myra Oppel, PEPCO regional communications director, said the storm ripped a roof off a building and deposited it a quarter of a mile away on the top of several cars.

A resident who lives in Colmar Manor, Md., recalled driving home and seeing light poles on their sides, numerous car accidents and blank traffic lights. He chuckled as he described the hail that fell in such large quantities on his front lawn and backyard, leaving those areas almost completely white, as if snow had fallen. Equally amazing, he said, was the blanket of leaves that covered the length of the street he lives on, as well as adjoining streets and seeing leaves pasted to the sides of houses, doors and vehicles.

"It was freaky, a freak storm," the man said, shaking his head. "This place looks like a warzone."

He knows he dodged a bullet, he said, and was thankful his house was spared and that no one had been injured. The 35-year-old homeowner said one sturdy branch just missed doing serious damage to the side of his house, but at least two large tree branches had fallen on his back fence and gate, leaving them twisted and damaged, and two tents had been destroyed.