Two tornadoes touched down in the D.C. area, including the District itself, on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.
One of them touched down in the Cherrydale section of Arlington and tracked into D.C., the weather service said, and traveled about 4.4 miles to near 16th Street and Constitution Avenue on the Mall and just south of the Ellipse in Northwest. It was listed as an EF-1 tornado with winds reaching up to 90 mph.
The other one touched down about a mile northeast of the Capitol, then traveled along H Street into the Kingman Park area. It was listed as an EF-0 tornado, with winds up to 80 mph.
National Weather Service #storm survey confirmed two #tornadoes touched down in Arlington, VA and Washington, DC. See graphics for details. #VAwx #DCwx pic.twitter.com/D7Bfe97vgp
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) July 2, 2021
Tornado damage on the Mall
The bulk of the tornado damage on the Mall was along Constitution Avenue. Since the width was only around 125 yards wide, the trees along Independence Avenue, 600 or so yards to the south, fared better.
The damage mainly consisted of mature trees, toppled fences, and objects such as trash cans and portable toilets being overturned. A dozen or so port-a-potties for the Independence Day crowds were shunted into the middle of 15th Street.
Wind-blown and overturned porta potties blocking 15th Street across the National Mall #dcwx pic.twitter.com/d5McrJFRTd
— Dave Dildine (@DildineWTOP) July 2, 2021
Old elm trees on the Mall took an especially hard hit. Many were snapped at their bases or at the truck, not uprooted.
“In addition to these two tornadoes, we had over 100 storm damage reports across the area on Thursday during the afternoon and evening hours,” Storm Team4 meteorologist Amelia Draper told WTOP. “Wind damage bringing down numerous trees and power lines creating a lot of damage across the area.”
Downed trees and wires
The Arlington Fire Department said Friday that they responded to 16 fire alarms and 15 reports of downed wires after 9 p.m. Thursday.
Storm Team4 meteorologist Steve Prinzivalli said that between Thursday’s rainfall and additional showers on Friday, flooding from “small streams, creeks, and urban areas” were a possibility.
“Remember: When you encounter a flooded road, turn around and find an alternate route,” Prinzivalli said.
Downed trees and wires were reported across D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including one of a tree in Arlington that fell onto a house on the 4300 block of 16th Street North that trapped a person inside. Several large trees toppled near the White House and the National Mall in D.C.
Arlington County Fire says one adult who was trapped in this home, was rescued. Their injuries are not life threatening, thank goodness @WTOP pic.twitter.com/SxOB2SDKph
— Michelle Basch (@mbaschWTOP) July 2, 2021
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Damages and outages
The storms caused significant damages and delays starting Thursday afternoon.
One of the areas that saw damage was the National Mall, where thousands of people are expected to gather for Fourth of July celebrations on Sunday. The National Park Service said Friday morning that they’d still be ready:
Major storms rolled through #WashingtonDC last night. We are still assessing the damage along the National Mall, but are confident we have the resources & time to get everything ready for Sunday’s #July4th celebration. Thanks to our maintenance crews for all their hard work! pic.twitter.com/CHFaO3hDh1
— National Mall NPS (@NationalMallNPS) July 2, 2021
Heavy rain and strong winds caused backups at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Thursday, delaying the afternoon rush hour. That’s in addition to traffic delays caused by storm debris and dark traffic lights on local roads.
Thousands of homes, at one point more than 60,000, lost power.
At least six homes were evacuated Friday morning in Takoma Park, Maryland, where a huge tree fell and brought down power lines, sparking multiple fires.
WTOP’s John Domen reports that a “massive cleanup” is underway through parts of Prince George’s County, Maryland, early Friday morning, where tree limbs are laying on roads and some shoulders.
A massive cleanup underway through parts of Prince George’s County today. This is enterprise Road near Largo Community Church. Some cars are driving through the neighborhood along the post to detour, others are turning around. More @WTOP pic.twitter.com/iYDw7HmziY
— John Domen (@JDDsays) July 2, 2021
Due to the “significant tree damage,” officials in Bowie, Maryland, said they will relax its yard waste protocols and collect any tree, plant or log debris put into a trash can on July 7 and 14. Any larger tree limbs, trunks and logs should be placed at the curb. More information can be found on the city’s Twitter account.
In Arlington, WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reports that Utah Street — which normally carries cut-through traffic between Washington Blvd and Lee Highway– has a large tree and wires blocking the road.
He said that crews will be out later to cut up the tree and clean up the wires along the intersection.
At the end of the block on North 21st Street, off Nottingham, in Arlington, a snapped branch from an older tree has pulled down a utility pole and wires, leaving them lying across the street. Augenstein said it doesn’t appear any wires fell onto any cars.
Crews have arrived and are cutting up the tree, but it will take other crews to take down the wires and reset the utility pole.
Stuck in the storm
“I thought as I pulled out my camera, this is either going to be the best picture I ever took, or the last picture I ever took.”
Michelle Dolge, of Chevy Chase, was driving with her husband along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for the holiday weekend when she said they “realized this weather is right behind us.”
“You couldn’t see anything; you could barely see the cars in front of you,” she told WTOP’s Mike Murillo. “The rain looked like smoke blowing in front of you, because it was blowing sideways. It was that way the whole way across the bridge.”
Bob Thomas, of Mitchellville, Maryland, told Domen that the storm “looked like a tornado.”
“It was swirly, it was a straight line and it came right through my yard … It hit my neighbor’s tree first and tour it down, and then it hit mine and it just snapped. It was like an explosion,” he said.
Thomas said he planted the tree 37 years ago, adding, “It was a very sturdy tree.” The tree was between 60 and 65 feet.
“I’m just grateful that it was leaning towards the street as opposed to my house; otherwise, it would have crushed it,” he said.
WTOP’s Dave Dildine, John Domen and Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.