WASHINGTON: Powerful storms struck the mid-Atlantic states with hurricane-force gusts on Friday, knocking out power to more than one million people in the region and prompting the West Virginia governor to declare a statewide emergency.
The U.S. National Weather Service posted a severe thunderstorm watch for portions of the District of Columbia, eastern Kentucky, western Maryland, southwestern Pennsylvania, much of Virginia and parts of West Virginia. The advisory, which warned of wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour (129 km per hour) and large hail, was to remain in effect until early Saturday morning.
Governor Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for all of West Virginia following storms that he said left an estimated 500,000 people without electricity in at least 27 counties. The declaration allows "government resources to be devoted immediately to helping those in need and restoring power as soon as possible," he said in a statement.
Wind gusts clocked at speeds of up to 79 mph (127 kph) were reported in and around the U.S. capital, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes in the Washington, D.C., area.
WJLA Television reported one fatality in suburban Fairfax County, Virginia, after a tree fell on a car. Bands of rain lashed the District of Columbia, and winds littered the streets with tree limbs as the fast-moving storms, which started in the Midwest after a day of severe heat, reached Washington and its suburbs late in the evening.
WTOP radio said more than 800,000 people in the Washington area were without power. Outages hit several Washington Metro stations, the Washington Post reported.
A flash-flood warning was issued in Fredrick County, Maryland, until 1:15 a.m. on Saturday. WUSA television in Washington said "thousands of trees" and tree branches were likely downed by the storm.
Temperature records for the month of June were broken on Friday in Washington, Atlanta and Louisville, Kentucky. In all three cities, the temperature hit at least 104 F (40 C), according to the National Weather Service.