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Storm causes damage in southern Washington County

  • Workers for Potomac Edison work to fix power lines Friday morning that were messed up by a storm that hit southern Washington County Thursday night.
By Caleb Calhoun, Staff Photographer

The damage was caused by a downburst, which is rare to see, said Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

People in the southern part of the county reported seeing a black funnel cloud coming down, but it was not a tornado, Jackson said.

"That would have been the downburst itself," Jackson said.

A downburst is a body of cold air in a storm that eventually "breaks out" and falls to the ground, Jackson said.

Jackson said NWS officials are still assessing the storm, but it appears winds could have been between 70 mph and 80 mph.

Jackson said his office received reports of "a couple dozen" trees being uprooted or snapped off.

On Friday, Joe Howell, who lives on Reed Road, said he and his wife, Judy, were checking out the damage caused by a tree that hit their house.

"We saw it storming hard outside so we went downstairs to take shelter," he said. "As we were heading downstairs, we saw the tree fall on our house."

The tree was uprooted and hit the roof of the house, landing on top of Howell's pickup truck in the process.

A tree also landed on the Howells' garage, punching small holes in the roof, Howell said.

"We were both shook up, but we are also OK, and that's what's important," he said. "There are disasters that have been much worse than this."

The storm whipped through the area after 7 p.m. Thursday, Howell said.

"I looked outside and rain was blowing everywhere," he said. "It was like a whiteout of rain."

By Friday morning, most of the tree branches had been cleared off the road and piled on the grass

By mid-day Friday, houses on Reed Road remained without power and Potomac Edison was working to fix the power lines, Russel White of Potomac Edison said.

"We are trying to move as fast as possible," said White, a lead lineman. "Our main priority is making sure we keep everybody safe in the process."

Utility workers had to remove tree branches from power lines and replace many of the lines, White said.

Most of the roads had been cleared by Friday morning. Tree branches were piled along the road and some debris remained in the roadway.

The National Weather Service had placed the area under a flash flood warning, but that was lifted early Friday.

In the Hagerstown area, the weather system left 0.75 inches of rain, according to the website of local weather observer Greg Keefer at

In Frederick, heavy rainfall caused significant street flooding and forced city officials to close five streets, the Frederick Police Department said in a news release Friday.

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