Ahead of Arthur: Powerful, damaging thunderstorms blow through D.C. region

Tree falls on home in the 3100 block Arizona Ave. NW in the district. (WJLA photo/Tom Roussey)

WASHINGTON (WJLA/WTOP) - Ahead of Hurricane Arthur, powerful storms moved through the D.C. metro area on Thursday evening -- downing trees, damaging buildings and triggering power outages that left thousands in the dark.

Most of the counties and cities in the region experienced severe thunderstorm warnings at one point or another over a several hour span; a thunderstorm watch was in effect for the entire area until 9 p.m.

The West Front of the U.S. Capitol, where the dress rehearsal for Friday's Capitol Fourth celebration was to be held, was evacuated because of the storms. Those outside the Capitol were sent to nearby parking garages, such as the one in the Rayburn House Office Building..

Numerous flight delays occurred at all three Washington area airports - Reagan National, Dulles and BWI - due to the thunderstorms.

Downed trees were reported in numerous areas, most notably on the George Washington Parkway southbound - which was blocked near Route 123 forcing traffic to be turned around.

A tree believed to have been struck by lightning fell on a D.C. home in the 3100 block of Arizona Ave NW. Two people inside the home at the time of the incident were both okay.

Prince George's County fire officials said a large facade at The Enclave, a high-rise building on on Route 1 near Greenbelt Road in College Park, collapsed into some power poles.

At one point, nearly 44,000 Pepco customers lost power in the Montgomery County, Md. area, mainly in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring.

Around 18,000 Dominion Power customers experienced outages at the height of things in Northern Virginia, mostly inside the Beltway in Fairfax County.

BGE said 3,000 of its' customers lost power during the storms -- mainly in Howard and Montgomery Counties, while Potomac Edison had more than 2,000 customers without power in Frederick County, Md.

The Rappahannock Electric Cooperative also reported nearly 2,000 customers experienced outages, with NOVEC and SMECO saying they each had a few hundred customers who lost electricity during the evening.

Richard Chavez and his family are celebrating their Fourth of July Friday in the dark, as last night's storms brought down huge branches that knocked out the feeder line to his home. Although his neighbors have their power back, he still does not.

"I must have called about five times, they don't give me a definite time, they just say that they're trying to do the best that they can," he says.

This being July 4th, the worst thing of all is it's affecting his cookout.

"Well, without electricity we can't work in the kitchen, so all those trimmings that go with the barbecue are just going to have to be put on hold," says a disappointed Chavez.

The one plus is that temperatures have cooled dramatically overnight -- so for once it's not hot and humid for Independence Day.