Severe storm ravages cityscape

Severe storm ravages cityscape

Once the late-afternoon thunderstorm that blew through Alexandria on Thursday was out of sight, it became quite clear that the weather event was far from ordinary.

Focusing its rage on the eastern half of the city, the storms severe winds downed what was likely hundreds of trees though no official estimate has been released that in turn took out power lines en masse and blocked dozens of city streets at the height of rush hour. 

This storm produced hurricane-force winds and Alexandria sustained a direct hit, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said at a press conference on Friday afternoon, with the Del Ray, Old Town and North Ridge neighborhoods experiencing the worst of the damage.

At the height of the thunder-boomer, roughly half of the city was without power, according to David Koogler, a spokesman for Virginia Dominion Power, which supplies electricity to the city.

A day later, that number was down to about 20 percent including the mayor, a Del Ray resident but many residents power did not return until Sunday.

We had Hurricane Agnes when I was a kid and Isabel in 2003, and I thought Isabel was the mother of all storms, said Euille, a city resident for 60 years. But this one I think was at the magnitude that you can take everything and combine it.

When Isabel hit, yes, we had power failures and outages and fallen trees, but nothing like the magnitude of yesterdays storm, he said.

The city government opened its emergency operations center by early evening to manage the response to the severe weather and declared a local emergency late Thursday to expedite the recovery process.

However, no serious injuries, accidents or deaths were reported, according to city officials.

City officials anticipated the cleanup effort would take at least a week or more, and trucks tasked with removing tree debris were still stationed in areas of Del Ray and North Ridge as late as Tuesday.

Alexandria was the hardest-hit locale in our entire service area, Koogler said Friday. Other areas Warrenton, Leesburg, Fairfax they were impacted, but not as significantly. 

According to Koogler, hundreds of thousands of Virginia Dominion customers in Northern Virginia and elsewhere lost power at some point during Thursdays storm, but more than 10 percent were found in Alexandria alone.

The outages left many Old Town businesses in the dark albeit intermittently along King Street and also knocked out traffic signals throughout the eastern half of the city.

The severe storm also featured a remarkable electric display: More than 180,000 lightning strikes hit Virginia Dominion equipment over an eight-hour period during the storm an average of 300 lightning strikes per minute Koogler said.

Its an amazing statistic, he said.

Downed trees blocked portions of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in both directions for a time, but radio reports said the northbound section had reopened by 6:30 p.m.

As of 2 p.m. on Friday, 49 roads were still closed because of fallen trees, according to city spokesman Tony Castrilli. Many more were closed following the storm, but had already reopened.

Oddly enough, the storms path left the southwestern corner of the city unscathed, Euille said, without any of the complications found closer to the Potomac River.