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Storms hammer D.C. area after record-setting heat

Saturday - 6/30/2012, 12:43pm  ET

Temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic region are expected to be around 100 at least through the weekend. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON - A wave of violent storms swept through the Washington area on Friday evening, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses after a day of record-setting heat.

The storms converged on Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia after 10 p.m. Friday.

Police in northern Virginia say a woman was killed when a tree fell onto her home and they're responding to reports of other injuries stemming from storms that ravaged the mid-Atlantic region.

Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings says the woman was killed in the Springfield area during the height of the storm Friday night.

Jennings says authorities elsewhere in the county were responding to reports of a Park Police officer whose car was hit by a tree and an 18-year-old man struck by a power line.

As of 3 a.m., Pepco was reporting 441,000 outages in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Md.

"We have more than half our system down," said Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel. "This is definitely going to be a multi-day outage."

She said Pepco will seek to bring in crews from other states, but that neighboring utilities facing massive outages will also be calling on them.

"This is very unfortunate timing," she said, referring to the heat wave. "We do understand the hardship that this brings, especially with the heat as intense as it is. We will be working around the clock until we get the last customer on."

Meanwhile, Dominion Power was reporting 837,000 customers without power, including 460,000 in northern Virginia.

BGE said about 431,000 customers were without power, mostly in Baltimore and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard and Prince George's.

Delmarva Power was reporting about 68,000 customers without power in Delaware.

Montgomery County officials said winds in excess of 75 mph had been reported.

Metrorail trains were returned to their endpoints due to the storms and related damage, officials tweeted.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said some Red Line service had been suspended due to a weather-related outage. Delays were reported on the Blue and Orange lines, buses were replacing trains on some routes and crews were busy removing downed trees.

"It has had a widespread effect on the region," Stessel said early Saturday. He said about 17 train stations were operating on backup power due to local power outages, but that he didn't anticipate service being disrupted on Saturday.

WTOP Radio was reporting downed and damaged trees around the Washington area, as well as toppled Porta Pottys that had been set up for a weekend event on the National Mall.

Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said the system that passed through the Washington area is known as a derecho, which the weather service describes as "a widespread, long-lived wind system that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms." Although a derecho can produce tornado-like damage, the damage is typically along a mostly straight path.

Jackson said the storms originated in the Midwest, passed over the Appalachian mountains and then re-strengthened, drawing energy and direction from a ridge of high pressure centered over the southeastern United States.

"It's one of those storms, it just plows through," Jackson said. "It's able to maintain itself and it's associated with very strong wind gusts. So we have widespread 60- , 70-, 80-, even isolated 90-mile-an-hour, wind gusts associated with it."

He said the storm toppled trees and damaged structures, in what he called very, very widespread, large-scale damage."

Earlier Friday, the Washington area broke a record high temperature set almost 80 years ago.

The National Weather Service said that just before 3 p.m., it was 104 degrees at Washington Reagan National Airport. That beats the record of 101 set in 1934.

Baltimore was also experiencing temperatures in the 100s. It was 102 at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport around 3 p.m. That was shy of the record of 105 set in 1934.

The National Weather Service is predicting sunny weather Saturday and Sunday in the greater Washington area, with highs in the upper 90s.More showers and thunderstorms are also possible both days.

Officials urged residents this weekend to drink plenty of fluids, stay indoors when possible and wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. In Baltimore, the mayor extended the hours of city pools by an hour to help residents keep cool.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)