Severe storms in DC area bring 70 mph winds, closing local airports

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After another blistering day in the D.C. region Wednesday with feels-like temperatures around 100 degrees, a cold front swept through the area and brought strong thunderstorms that stuck around until late in the night.

Shortly before thunderstorms began rumbling through the region, all three D.C.-area airports recorded a high temperature of 99 degrees, which was a record mark for Wednesday’s date for two of them.

The National Weather Service put a severe thunderstorm watch into effect for central Maryland and the rest of the D.C. region until midnight Wednesday. Damaging winds were the primary threat throughout the region, the NWS said.

The heavy weather arrived in two waves. The first brought more scattered and isolated storms before 8 p.m., which started brewing south of D.C. before 4 p.m. Wednesday, packing heavy winds that reportedly brought down trees in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. As that system moved eastward, it also triggered a severe thunderstorm warning in parts of Charles and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.

WTOP Meteorologist Mike Stinneford said as the storms made it to the La Plata area, wind gusts exceeded 70 mph.

After 8 p.m. and going up until nearly midnight, the rough weather was much more widespread.

A sprawling storm cell moved over the D.C. region, leading the NWS to issue a series of sweeping severe thunderstorm warnings spanning from Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Fauquier counties in Virginia to Prince George’s, Charles and Frederick counties in Maryland.

As with the earlier round of scattered storms, the primary threat was dangerous winds, which approached 65 mph, according to the NWS.

The Federal Aviation Administration also announced a ground stop at all three major airports — Dulles International, Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International — until 10:45 p.m. due to the thunderstorms.

The storms also packed heavy downpours, something desperately needed in the D.C. region after a series of hot and rainless days. Officials issued a drought warning for several Northern Virginia counties Monday, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality declared the entire state was under a drought watch.

In the D.C. area, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington and Fairfax counties were all affected by the warning, which “indicates a significant drought is imminent,” according to a news release from the department.

On Wednesday, Baltimore/Washington International Airport recorded a high of 99 degrees, tying its record high. Dulles International Airport also hit 99, shattering the previous record of 95 for June 26.

After the storms roll through, temperatures cool down for the rest of the week, with highs forecast in the mid to upper 80s on Thursday and Friday.

Full forecast

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Thunderstorms, areas of rain
Lows: 68-73
Winds: Northwest 5-10 mph
The strongest storms will exit around midnight with showers through the predawn hours. 

THURSDAY: Gradual clearing with falling humidity
Highs: 85-90
Winds: Northwest 5-10 mph
Early morning clouds will give way to sunshine and more seasonable afternoon highs in the upper 80s. After a warm and very humid morning, humidity levels will drop through the day making it feel more comfortably warm by the afternoon and evening. 

FRIDAY: Mostly to partly sunny
Highs: Near 85
Winds: Southeast 5-10 mph
We’ll wrap up the last week of June with really nice weather. After a comfortable morning in the 60s, temperatures will warm into the mid-80s by the afternoon with low humidity. Enjoy it because humidity levels soar into the weekend. 

THIS WEEKEND: It will be a very humid weekend with dew point temperatures in the mid-70s, which is very high for our area. High temperatures will reach the upper 80s on Saturday with highs in the low 90s by Sunday. With the sky-high humidity, feels-like temperatures will be near 100 Saturday and closer to 105 Sunday. Heat advisories are possible on Sunday. While it will not be a washout weekend, expected chances for rain and storms that could impact your outdoor plans. 

Current weather

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Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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