Storms leave two Montgomery County schools closed Friday -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. June 13, 2013.

Two schools in Montgomery County - Sligo Middle School and Blair Ewing Center - are closed Friday due to power outages after storms tore through the area Thursday.

According to the schools website, only those two schools are affected. All others have a half day.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning and a severe thunderstorm warning for Montgomery County on Thursday afternoon for a storm that included significant cloud-to-ground lightning, according to Montgomery County government alerts.

The storm resulted in power being lost in several areas. As of 8:30 a.m. Friday, Pepco was reporting 3,944 outages in Montgomery County and 41 in Prince George’s. BG&E reported 57 customers still without power in Prince George’s.

Kevin Witt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there were two funnel clouds in Montgomery County that were expected to leave the county area by around 4:20 p.m. as they headed toward Baltimore.

Witt said no tornados had been confirmed in the county.

A thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was tracked at 4:07 p.m. near Cheverly and Bladensburg, according to the Prince George’s County alert system.

Pepco reported 1,600 outages in Prince George’s County as of 4:30 p.m., spokeswoman Myra Oppel said. She expected that number to fluctuate and said power will be restored after the storm.

At 5:15 p.m., Pepco reported approximately 1,900 outages in the county. That number is expected to plateau according to spokesman Marcus Beal.

The timeframe on power restoration is not yet known, Beal said.

“We’re fully staffed for this,” he said. “We have about 600 crews available to attack these outages.”

“We have to see what we have to repair before we fix it,” Oppel said.

About 38,000 outages were reported in Montgomery County as of around 4:15 p.m., Oppel said.

A tree fell on a house at 5900 Parkway Drive in Laurel, said Mark Brady, chief spokesman for Prince George’s County’s fire/EMS department. Most fire department units were leaving the scene at 4:45 p.m., and there were no reports of injuries or people trapped, he said.

The northbound and southbound lanes on Md. 212 near Merrimack Drive in Langley Park in Prince George’s county were closed due to storm debris around 5:05 p.m., said Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the State Highway Administation.

A severe thunderstorm watch spanning the entire Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area was in effect until 7 p.m, said Jason Elliott, another National Weather Service meterologist.

He said the storms could bring strong winds, hail, and heavy rainfall to the area.

There also was a flash flood watch in effect until the storms pass through the region, he said. Heavy rain on Monday left the ground saturated, making flash floods more likely, Elliott said.

Montgomery College’s Rockville campus closed Thursday afternoon due to storm damage, according to a Montgomery County government alert.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services spokeswoman Beth Anne Nesselt said an individual was trapped in a vehicle near the campus, and power lines had fallen on the car. Nesselt said personnel were dispatched to the scene at 4:23 p.m.

The Montgomery College central services building on the Rockville campus lost power, college spokesman Marcus Rosano said.

Rosano was unsure if other buildings had lost power as well. He said there was no damage assessed to Montgomery College buildings.

With the threat of severe afternoon storms looming, Prince George’s County Public Schools closed at 1 p.m. Thursday and canceled evening events.

“Ground stops,” preventing flights from leaving from other departure points, were in effect at BWI, Reagan National and Dulles International airports due to thunderstorms as of around 3:15 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.

While some morning storms already have passed through the area, afternoon storms could become Thursday’s main weather event.

Jim Lee, another meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said that from around 1 to 7 p.m., storms in the area were expected to be more severe than the morning storms, with warm, moist air joining the low-pressure system.

“You’re right in the middle of it.” he said of Montgomery County.

Lee said strong-to-severe morning storms in the region resulted in strong wind gusts in several areas of Montgomery County.

Parts of Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Laytonsville already experienced gusts ranging from 35 to 40 mph, Lee said.

Gischlar said the Montgomery County area didn’t experience any major issues on its roadways due to the morning storms, but could face trouble from later storms, he said.

“The ground is saturated from a week of heavy rain and it is likely that we will see flooding, downed trees and power outages that will disable signals,” SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters said in a Thursday press release.

Gischlar said people should take care of their business before the next wave of weather and plan ahead for potentially dangerous storms.

“What we’re looking at is the afternoon,” he said. “That’s the big question mark right now.”

SHA has opened its emergency services center in Hanover, he said.

With power outages possible, Gischlar said, the State Highway Administration is reminding drivers that state law now requires all drivers — even those on main roadways — to treat an intersection like a four-way stop if the power is out.

Drivers also must put their low-beam headlights on if their windshield wipers are in use, he said.

Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey said power outages in Montgomery County Thursday morning were unrelated to the storms.

About 1,000 people were affected — including those in areas of Potomac, Rockville and Silver Spring — by a cable problem, Hainey said, but their power was restored.

Hainey said Pepco has monitored the storm during the past couple days as it has traveled across the Midwest.

“We are gearing up for a full-out response,” he said.

As of around noon Thursday, fewer than five people in the Germantown area had experienced storm-related power outages under Potomac Edison’s system, said Dave Kline, the utility company’s manager of external affairs.

Staff writers Sylvia Carignan and Jen Bondeson contributed to this story.