Power outages, ‘catastrophic’ damage after Northern Va. storms

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative said the storm broke seven poles in row along one portion or Route 22 in Warrenton, Virginia. (Courtesy Rappahannock Electric Cooperative)

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative said damage was extensive in the area of Devils Three Jump Road in Caroline County, Virginia. (Courtesy Rappahannock Electric Cooperative)

Yellow police tape in front of the courthouse in Warrenton, Virginia, following Wednesday’s storms. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Broken tree branch on building
Wednesday’s severe storms wreaked havoc in parts of the D.C. area, especially Warrenton in Fauquier County, Virginia, where hundreds of fallen trees and branches have caused structural damage, power outages and blocked roads. (Courtesy Brandie Schaeffer)

Yellow police tape in front of downed trees near the courthouse in Warrenton, Virginia, following Wednesday’s storms. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Trees down in front of homes
Trees downed by storms in front of homes in Warrenton, Virginia. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Wednesday’s severe storms wreaked havoc in parts of the DMV, especially Warrenton, in Fauquier County, Virginia, where hundreds of fallen trees and branches have caused structural damage, power outages and blocked roads. (Courtesy Brandie Schaeffer)

Wednesday’s severe storms wreaked havoc in parts of the D.C. region, especially Warrenton, in Fauquier County, Virginia, where hundreds of fallen trees and branches have caused structural damage, power outages and blocked roads. (Courtesy Brandie Schaeffer)

Wednesday’s severe storms wreaked havoc in parts of the D.C. region, especially Warrenton, in Fauquier County, Virginia, where hundreds of fallen trees and branches have caused structural damage, power outages and blocked roads. (Courtesy Brandie Schaeffer)

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Broken tree branch on building
Trees down in front of homes

Thousands of people across Northern Virginia are waking up without power and — in many cases — debris to clear, following storms packing powerful punches Wednesday.


Key Updates:


In Fauquier County, a power company spokeswoman said the damage to power lines is “catastrophic” and that it could take several days to restore power to all customers.

Overall, the strong storms knocked out electricity for more than 25,000 homes and businesses in Northern Virginia, according to Dominion Energy.

Dominion said about 9,000 customers were without power in Fauquier County, more than 2,500 customers in Fredericksburg and around 1,600 customers in Loudoun County.

The Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System responded to numerous calls for assistance concerning downed power lines, downed trees, lighting strikes, and other storm related problems.

While responding to storm-related calls, two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The more severe storm-related incident was a house fire in the 25000 block of Kinsale Place in Aldie, where firefighters found a two-story single-family residence with smoke showing after being struck by lightning. The first arriving crews quickly located a fire in the attic and extinguished it within 12 minutes, according to a press release.

The Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal’s Office has classified the fire as natural due to a lightning strike, and estimated damages at $336,000.

Two adults and two dogs were displaced and are staying with family. Smoke alarms were present and were functional. There were no civilian injuries; however, one firefighter was transported to a local hospital for a minor injury, according to a press release.

Loudoun County firefighters are continuing to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation and power crews to open roadways, the fire department said.



Substantial outages included about 300 customers in Alexandria, about 168 across Fairfax County and about 100 in Falls Church, plus other outages in Arlington, Fairfax City, Spotsylvania and Stafford as well, according to Dominion.

More than 2,700 customers were in the dark in Culpeper County and about 1,600 customers were without power in Fauquier County, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative said.

NOVEC reported a smaller number of outages in Fauquier and Loudoun counties.

‘Huge event’

Fauquier County Public Schools canceled all summer classes and activities for Thursday due to the widespread outages.

Dominion Energy spokeswoman Peggy Fox said the damage in Fauquier County was “catastrophic” and “widespread in certain areas.”

“This is a huge event; six broken poles, 20 broken cross arms. That’s a lot of damage.” Fox said There are 141 different areas that suffered “bad damage” where crews are working, she said.

Dominion Energy crews worked overnight and continue to do so, according to Fox.

“We were able to bring down those outages and get some people back on. But as we go out, we even find more damage. So, it’s going to be a while.”

Fox said Dominion crews will “be working round the clock until we get every single customer back, but acknowledged “it will be several days” before everyone’s power can be restored.

The hardest hit in the area, so far, has been the Town of Warrenton in Fauquier County, where hundreds of fallen trees and branches fell on houses, causing structural damage and blocking roadways along Interstate 66.

Warrenton Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer told WTOP that Wednesday’s quick-passing storms blew right through the town, leaving behind spotty power outages.

The hospital there, which switched to generator power, had regular power restored by 1 a.m., according to Schaeffer.

She told WTOP that courts are closed Thursday, businesses located on Main Street can reopen — if they have power, and historic buildings may need inspections.

‘Tornado-like damage’

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative said crews and contractors are responding to “about 180 separate” storm-related outage events, impacting “more than 11,000 member-owners.”

“Crews continue to discover broken poles and downed wires — in addition to numerous downed large trees. Crews in the Eastern portion of the REC service territory have described ‘tornado-like damage,’ and in the Route 211 area near Warrenton the storm broke seven poles in a row,” according to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative news release.

Alexandra Lohr, who lives off Route 211, about four miles from Warrenton, near Shenandoah National Park, said, “There were trees down that were like 6 foot walls on our road going in both directions. You couldn’t get out of the road.”

She added, “Trees as old as Civil War-era oaks and cedars had been uprooted and fallen into the road. There was no way in or out. Fortunately, one of my neighbors had an excavator and was able to clear out the trees pretty quickly.”

She said her home remains without power.

Despite all the damage caused, the National Weather Service told WTOP that it does not plan to send crews to assess damage in Warrenton and Fauquier counties.

In Stafford County, Twitter user Jason Nealis shared some of the damage left behind after Wednesday afternoon’s quick passing storms.

The storms also disappointed rock fans, who were asked to take cover inside the concourse in Nationals Park as thunderstorms arrived. The Stadium Tour concert — featuring Motley Crue and Def Leppard — was paused due to the severe weather in the area, stadium officials said. The concert restarted after a more than 90-minute delay.

Fans of Motley Crue and Def Leppard try to stay dry in the concourse of Nationals Park after storms in the region caused a delay in their concert. (Courtesy Brendan O’Connell)

Forecast:

Even though the risk for severe thunderstorms has ended, Storm Team4’s Chuck Bell said you will still need the umbrella Thursday.

“Most of Thursday’s rain chance is in the morning, and the rain could add up to several inches in a few places, so flash flooding will remain a concern,” Storm Team4’s Chuck Bell said.

“The low pressure which brought us the storms is moving out but there is still enough instability in the atmosphere to deliver a few more rainy periods throughout the day,” Bell said.

THURSDAY: Rain and drizzle, ending from west to east this afternoon. Becoming less humid. Highs in the low to mid 70s.
THURSDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing. Areas of fog developing after midnight. Lows in mid 50s to lower 60s.
FRIDAY: Becoming mostly sunny and warmer. Highs in the low to mid 80s.
SATURDAY: Mostly sunny and more humid. Highs in the mid 80s to lower 90s.
SUNDAY: Becoming partly cloudy, hot and humid. Chance of a thunderstorm by sunset. Highs in the upper 80s to lower 90s.
MONDAY: Showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the lower 80s.


Current conditions:


Power outages:

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein, Joshua Barlow, Alejandro, Abigail Constantino, Dick Uliano, Juan Herrera and Kristi King contributed to this report.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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