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Votes

Micro-Blast Inflicts Macro-Damage

When the hail started, Mike Giuffre brought his children into the basement of his house at Congressional Country Club.

“I live right here on the premises, and the storm was ferocious,” said Giuffre, the director of golf course management at Congressional. At its peak, the hail pelted the switches of the golf carts, turning their lights on, Giuffre said.

The storm passed quickly through Potomac late at night on Monday, June 30, but the next morning, Giuffre began the task of restoring Congressional, which lost 96 trees during the storm. A channeled zone of fallen trees marked where the peak of a “micro-blast” thunder and hail storm swept through portions of Chevy Chase and Potomac.

LARGE TREES fell in the high winds of the storm, but few houses sustained significant roof damage, according to Eugene Roesser of the Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department.

“Nobody was injured, thankfully [and] there were no swift water rescue calls,” said Roesser.

“It’s a heck of a lot of tree damage. … A lot of that is the ground is already saturated. It was entire trees coming down,” said Roesser. “A majority of calls were for significant trees and limbs on houses.”

Potomac Village and the nearby communities were hard-hit, as were the Congressional and Avenel country clubs, but further away were communities that escaped intact.

The path of debris was not a tornado, but a “micro-blast,” with thunderstorms and hail, said Jim DeCarufel of the regional National Weather Service forecast office.

A micro-blast is a large pool of air being pulled rapidly from the sky. “It was a line of thunderstorms in association with a cold front,” DeCarufel said.

Extreme storm conditions were not widespread in the capital region, limited mostly to portions of Montgomery County, said DeCarufel. “It was unusual in that we got that kind of weather that late at night,” he said.

JULIE PERLMAN looked over the shredded flower bed in front of Potomac Library on Tuesday morning.

“I can’t believe this … These were lush plants yesterday.” she said. “We spent four hours up here. It’s just completely gone.”

A member of the Potomac Village Garden Club, Perlman pointed out flowers that had been stripped to the stem, and to confetti-like shreds of leaves that covered the library’s lawn.

Many annuals and perennials at Behnke Nursery were destroyed by the hail, said manager Ken Kasprzak. “We ended up throwing out a lot of stuff,” he said. “We also had damage to wooden structures. … In some cases, the hail was so extensive that it ruined the finish on some benches and left pock-marks on the pottery.”

Clumps of hail were still unmelted by mid-afternoon on Tuesday. The nursery had restocked smaller plants by the end of the week, but Kasprzak estimated that some shrubs will take up to a month before they look attractive again.

Steve DeLanoy of Potomac Lock and Security said he received calls from several households where the power outage rendered cars inaccessible — electric door openers were the only means some people had to exit their garages.

FIVE HOLES WERE underwater at The Tournament Player’s Club at Avenel on Tuesday morning, due to floodwaters in Rock Run. The course was closed for the next two days. Golf Course Superintendent Dennis Ingram said 23 large trees were completely blown down, along with too many smaller trees and branches to count.

At Congressional, Giuffre said an intense micro-blast hit the course last summer, but the saturated ground made this year’s storm worse. Congressional closed one course on Tuesday, and while all holes were for play by Wednesday, fallen trees remain and all bunkers have been washed out. It should take up to two weeks to complete restoration work from the storm, he said.

After the drought of last summer, Giuffre said, “Mother Nature has a funny way of balancing things out.”