Storms have battered eastern US causing flight cancellations, 1.1 million have power outages

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WASHINGTON — Thousands of U.S. flights were canceled or delayed, and more than 1.1 million homes and businesses lost power Monday as destructively powerful storms, including potential tornadoes, hail and lightning, swept across the eastern United States

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Just after 5 p.m., it began to rain in the Washington area, and the sky began to turn an ominous dark gray, a harbinger of forecast severe weather and mass power outages.

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The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the greater DC area that lasted through 9 p.m. and a flood warning through Tuesday morning. In a special statement from the Weather Service, the Weather Service warned, “There is a significant threat from damaging and locally destructive hurricane-force winds, as well as the potential for large hail and tornadoes, even strong tornadoes.”

The spread of the storms was enormous, with tornado warnings and tornado warnings posted in ten states from Tennessee to New York. More than 29.5 million people were under tornado watch as of Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, and the area of ​​greatest concern is the Washington-Baltimore region.

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About 1,500 US flights were canceled and more than 7,000 delayed as of late Monday afternoon, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. More than a quarter of the cancellations occurred at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which was hit by disruption from Sunday storms.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would divert planes towards the East Coast around storms and warned it will likely begin grounding flights in and out of the New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta area.

The White House has delayed President Joe Biden’s departure by 90 minutes for a four-day trip that will take him to Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The White House also canceled a back-to-school cybersecurity event that was scheduled to be attended by First Lady Jill Biden, a teacher, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and school administrators, educators, and educational technology providers from across the country.

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The Office of Human Resources Management announced Monday that all non-emergency employees must leave before 3 p.m. when all federal offices are closed.

“This appears to be one of the worst severe weather events in the entire mid-Atlantic we’ve had in a while,” National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong said in a Facebook Live briefing.

The timing of the storms also worried forecasters. They were expected to hit larger population areas in the late afternoon and early evening, resulting in federal employees being sent home earlier to avoid being in their cars amid wind, hail and tornadoes.

Strong advised residents: “Get to a stable shelter. Be at home or be at work.”

As of early evening, more than 1.1 million customers in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia were without power, according to the blackout — all states along the storm system’s route .us. The Knoxville Utilities Board tweeted that the damage was “widespread and extensive” in its Tennessee service area and repairs will likely take several days.

A number of utility poles were downed in Westminster, Maryland, WJLA-TV reported.

— Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington and AP Airlines writer David Koenig contributed to this report.

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