WASHINGTON — A massive storm system that started in the Upper Midwest brought soaking rains and heavy winds to the Mid-Atlantic on Thursday, causing widespread power outages, flash flooding and extensive flight delays, but largely failing to live up to its fierce billing.
The severe weather was also blamed for two deaths.
The storm came and went in the Washington area ahead of the evening rush hour, bringing winds and thunder that knocked trees onto houses and cut power to thousands of homes and traffic signals.
Three tornadoes were reported in Maryland, though there were no immediate reports that they caused significant damage.
"The wind was pretty bad. It was just a squall that came through really fast," said Jim Estes, director of instruction at a golf driving range in Olney, a Washington suburb where one tornado was reported.
In Richmond, Va., a 4-year-old boy was fatally struck by a tree that toppled while he was visiting a park with his father.
Lightning from a fast-moving storm may have sparked a fire that killed a western Pennsylvania man early Thursday, the state fire marshal said.
Dire predictions from forecasters, including warnings throughout the region of tornadoes and thunderstorms, led to precautions throughout several states.
Maryland transit officials briefly closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a critical artery connecting the Baltimore-Washington area with Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore. Customers and employees of Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were directed at one point to seek shelter, in a bathroom or in the lowest level of the terminal, amid the threat of tornadoes.
Flightstats.com reported that hundreds of flights were cancelled and thousands more were delayed at East Coast and Midwest airports Thursday, with the New York-Washington corridor particularly affected.
As of Thursday night, there were about 30,000 outages in Maryland, the state emergency management agency said, and more than 300,000 in Virginia.
Still, overall, the storms appear to have caused less wind damage than was feared, said Bill Bunting of the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.