The rain began to fall in the Washington area shortly after 5pm, causing the skies to gradually darken ominously, foreshadowing the severe weather and widespread power outages that had been anticipated.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for the greater DC area, in effect until 9pm, along with a flood warning that extended through Tuesday morning. A special statement from the Weather Service cautioned of a significant threat of destructive hurricane-force winds, large hail, and the potential for tornadoes, including strong ones.
The impact of the storms was extensive, as tornado watches and warnings were issued across 10 states, spanning from Tennessee to New York. The National Weather Service reported that more than 29.5 million individuals were under a tornado watch on Monday afternoon, with the greatest concern centered around the Washington-Baltimore region.
FlightAware, a platform for tracking flights, reported that more than 2,300 flights within the United States had been canceled, including 95 flights at Washington Reagan National Airport. Moreover, an additional 6,800 US flights were subject to delays.
The Federal Aviation Administration took action to reroute planes around the approaching storms on their way to the East Coast, and it indicated that flights in and out of major metropolitan areas like New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, Charlotte, and Atlanta would likely be temporarily halted.
In response to the impending severe weather, the White House adjusted President Joe Biden’s travel plans, moving up his departure time by 90 minutes for a four-day trip to Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Furthermore, a planned cybersecurity event focused on back-to-school matters, featuring First Lady Jill Biden, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and representatives from the education sector, was canceled.
To ensure safety, the Office of Personnel Management announced the closure of all federal offices by 3 pm, with non-emergency employees required to leave.
The most significant threat was concentrated in the mid-Atlantic area, encompassing Washington, DD. Some locations were at risk of experiencing winds surpassing 75 miles per hour and hail larger than golf balls, as stated by the NWS.
In response to the weather conditions, several facilities in the Washington area, including libraries, museums, the National Zoo, and pools, were closed earlier than usual. Additionally, both municipal and federal services were affected.
National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong emphasized the significance of these storms, describing them as one of the most impactful severe weather events experienced in the Mid-Atlantic region in quite some time, during a Facebook live briefing.
The timing of the storms raised concerns among forecasters, as they were expected to hit densely populated areas in the late afternoon and early evening. This prompted the early dismissal of federal workers to prevent them from being on the roads during hazardous conditions including strong winds, hail, and potential tornadoes.
Strong advised residents to seek sturdy shelter, recommending staying at home or at their workplace.
As evening fell, more than 1.1 million customers across multiple states including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia were left without power. The Knoxville Utilities Board noted extensive and widespread damage in its Tennessee service area, projecting that repairs would take several days to complete.