The Washington region scrambled Saturday to recover from a sudden and violent storm that killed at least five people, uprooted thousands of trees and left more than 1.3 million homes and businesses without power in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District.
Virginia, D.C. and Maryland officials declared a state of emergency as power companies across the region warned that it might take as long as a week to fully restore electricity. More storms were possible Saturday evening, though they were not expected to be as widespread or severe as Friday’s.
The storm, which took at least 13 lives across the eastern United States, caused widespread damage, leaving more than 3 million people without power. The storm’s ferocity made light of the trappings of urban order. In Montgomery County alone, 500 of the county’s 800 traffic lights were out. Drivers dodged fallen trees, downed wires and pools of standing water.
As late as 4 p.m., Arlington officials characterized 911 service as sporadic, and advised residents to call or personally go to stations to report emergencies.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, 1.2 million customers remained without power in the region. Pepco was reporting 420,000 customers without electricity in the District and neighboring parts of Maryland. That represented more than half of the 778,000 homes and businesses that Pepco serves.
Dominion Virginia Power was reporting that about 383,000 customers in northern Virginia had no power, almost half the homes and businesses in northern Virginia.
And at Baltimore Gas and Electric, 406,000 customers were powerless, a third of its customers in a service area that includes parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Authorities rushed to open libraries, swimming pools and cooling centers to give residents respite from the sweltering heat, which was expected to break the 100-degree mark for the second consecutive day Saturday.
The Anacostia Public Library stayed open late Saturday, one of five branches in the city that extended its hours. Shaneka Griffin, 22, brought her young daughter because the infant couldn’t fall asleep in their sauna-like home. “I brought my baby here so she could say, ‘Goodnight,’ ” she said.
Malls were jammed as people sought power outlets to charge their phones and computers, and long lines were reported at gas stations that still had power to run their pumps.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Friday night’s storm triggered the largest non-hurricane power outage in state history and forced the closure of 250 secondary and rural roads because of fallen trees.
“This is a very dangerous situation for Virginia,’’ McDonnell said, urging residents to check on elderly neighbors and those without electricity.
“Recovery will be difficult,’’ he said. “It’s going to be days before power is fully restored in the commonwealth.”
Falling trees killed at least four people, including two in the Springfield area of Fairfax County. One tree struck a car at Old Keene Mill Road and Bauer Drive, killing the male driver, said Officer Don Gotthardt, a Fairfax County police spokesman. A 90-year-old woman, lying in bed, was killed when a tree fell on her house, authorities said.