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Power issues linger for some after thunderstorm, hail

A Virginia Department of Transportation truck in Groveton after a May 16, 2022, storm (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Hundreds of people in Fairfax County are still without power after a thunderstorm swept through the D.C. area late yesterday afternoon (Monday).

Outages have been significantly reduced overnight, with the number of people affected dropping from more than 8,000 to about 500, as of 9:30 a.m., according to PowerOutage.US.

In terms of power losses, the storm primarily affected the south part of the county. Dominion Energy’s outage map indicates that 329 customers in West Springfield and over 50 customers in Hybla Valley, Mount Vernon, and Mason Neck are still waiting for their electricity to return.

Likely the result of fallen trees and branches on power lines, the individual outages appear to be limited in scope, each affecting only a few properties. The estimated time of restoration ranges from 1 to 7 p.m. today (Tuesday).

Yesterday’s storm brought 0.42 inches of precipitation to the Dulles Airport area and 0.27 inches to the National side of the region, according to preliminary climate reports from the National Weather Service.

However, the storm also had an unusual twist in the form of hail. Stones about the size of a quarter were spotted throughout the southeastern part of the county, including Franconia, Rose Hill, Fort Hunt, and Mount Vernon.

Maryland residents reported even larger hailstones.

According to the National Weather Service in Sterling, some hail is not especially unusual for this time of the year, but hail of the size seen yesterday is more rare.

“This is the time of year when we start to really warm up consistently. The caveat is that the atmosphere many thousand feet up is still cold as it takes more time to warm up further up at this point,” NWS meterologist Austin Mansfield said by email. “With lower freezing levels (0°C of the air temperature) in the atmosphere during this time of year but warmer and more unstable air masses looming, we can certainly see hail during this time of year.”

The NWS only tracks hail that’s 0.75 inches or larger in its archives. The last time the agency reported large hail in Fairfax County in May was on May 14, 2018, when it recorded hail with a 1.75-inch diameter, or roughly the size of a golf ball.

“Take that with a grain of salt because we are almost certain that hail has fallen in Fairfax County in the middle of May since then but it was more than likely smaller size (dime/nickel/pea),” Mansfield said.

Other scenes from the storm included fallen branches, waterborne trash cans, and post-rain goslings in Reston.

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