Massive storm system surges toward Mid-Atlantic

WASHINGTON — A massive storm system originally forecast to affect one in five Americans from Iowa to Maryland surged Thursday toward the Mid-Atlantic after causing widespread power outages but largely failing to live up to its billing in ferocity through the Upper Midwest.

The Washington, D.C., area braced for the storms and the National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm watches and warnings for much of the region. Forecasters warned the storms could produce damaging winds and large hail and a flash flood watch was in effect.

State and local officials warned residents to prepare for the storms and possible power outages. Power companies said they were preparing for storm response.

Storms with swift, straight-line winds soaked parts of Ohio, damaging trees and barns and leaving many without power early Thursday as commuters dodged fallen branches on roads and faced backups at intersections where traffic lights were out.

Straight-line winds topping 70 mph were reported and more than two dozen tornado warnings were issued as two rounds of storms pummeled the state, but no twisters have been confirmed, said Phillip Johnson, who was part of the team monitoring developments for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

In New Jersey, officials opened the soaked state’s Emergency Operations Center on Thursday morning to monitor the storm’s progress. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for most of the state. Forecasters predicted 1 to 2 inches of rain will fall on swollen rivers and streams.

By early Thursday, a derecho hadn’t developed. And Greg Carbin of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said, “With each hour that goes by, it’s less likely.”

While the Midwest dodged a derecho, several tornadoes, large hail and flooding did some damage.

In the small town of Belmond, Iowa, about 90 miles north of Des Moines, Duwayne Abel, owner of Cattleman’s Steaks &Provisions restaurant, said a tornado demolished part of the building. No one was in the restaurant at the time.

“I was, oh, 8 miles west of town and I looked toward town and I could see a funnel cloud, having no idea it was exactly where our restaurant was,” Abel said. His wife and an employee were able to get out of the restaurant and sought shelter in a basement.

In Iowa, at least two businesses and a home were damaged, authorities said. A storm ripped through a farm in rural Alexander, destroying a motor home. Tens of thousands of people across the Upper Midwest lost power.

In Wisconsin, authorities said thunderstorms packing heavy rain and high winds caused a Wal-Mart roof to partially collapse. Lake Delton Fire Chief Darren Jorgenson says two employees had minor injuries, but no customers were hurt.

“We’re just happy that we don’t have reports of injuries or fatalities,” said Stephanie Bond with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “We just hope the extent of the damage is minimal.”

Even before the storms moved through, officials postponed Wednesday night’s Chicago White Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays and canceled a symphony concert at the city’s downtown Millennium Park. The Metra commuter rail system temporarily halted service, and Northwestern University canceled classes and finals at its campuses in Chicago and suburban Evanston. Airlines canceled more than 120 flights at O’Hare International Airport.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesman Cory Angell said a standby worker was added at the emergency operations center in Harrisburg and officials had ensured two National Guard helicopters were ready if needed for water rescues.

Last year, a derecho caused at least $1 billion in damage from Chicago to Washington, killing 13 people and leaving more than 4 million people without power, according to the weather service. Winds reached nearly 100 mph in some places. In addition to the people who killed in the storm, 34 more people died from the heat wave that followed in areas without power.

For Washington, Philadelphia and parts of the Mid-Atlantic the big storm risk continues and even increases a bit Thursday, according to the weather service. In Washington, the Office of Personnel Management said federal agencies in the area would open but that workers would be allowed to take unscheduled leave or work from home.

The term derecho was coined in 1888, said Ken Pryor, a research meteorologist at the Center for Satellite Applications and Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in College Park, Md. The word is Spanish for “straight ahead” or “direct,” Pryor said.

The structure of a derecho-producing storm looks distinctive in radar and satellite imagery, Pryor said. “The systems are very large and have signatures that are very extreme,” he said. “You get large areas of very cold cloud tops that you typically wouldn’t see with an ordinary thunderstorm complex. The storms take on a comma or a bow shape that’s very distinctive.”

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Marilyn Carter (left) is president and Barbara Callaghan is vice president of the AOK Club at Washington Oakes Retirement Community in Everett. Carter personally funds much of the supplies for the club’s annual candy wreath fundraiser so that all sales proceeds can go to local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Daily Herald)
Circles of kindness

Residents of an Everett retirement community create candy wreaths as fundraisers.

County to contribute $1.6M to Everett’s low-barrier housing

The plan appears on track for the council to transfer the land ahead of next month’s groundbreaking.

Most Read