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Vol. LXIV, No. 15
July 20, 2012
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‘Derecho’ Causes Significant Damage to Main Campus
Photos: Carla Garnett, Frank Kutlak, Pam Phillips

The summer storm that raged through the Washington metropolitan area on June 29 caused significant damage to NIH’s Bethesda campus landscape. Meteorologists have deemed the weather system a derecho (Spanish for straight line) because it contained high winds and rain traveling in a virtual straight line eastward from northern Illinois through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. to the Atlantic coast. The combination of powerful winds (estimated between 70-80 mph) and intense rain—in a pattern unusual for this area—did a number on the region, leaving millions without electricity in record-setting heat and humidity.

“Friday night’s wind and rain storm was much worse than the damage from 2003 Hurricane Isabel,” said NIH landscape architect Lynn Mueller of ORF. “As of [July 2] we have 10 large trees down with another 6 with broken or hanging tops. In addition, we have about 50 large limbs on the ground along with thousands of smaller branches.

“Our Montgomery County Champion black willow near the National Library of Medicine lost a large branch but will survive,” he continued. “Three of the largest trees on the ground fell from neighboring residential property. The PNRC contractor trailers suffered damage from a white pine that fell on the roof. No other serious [property] damage—other than the perimeter security fence at the PNRC trailers and the property line fence—has been reported to me.

“All sidewalks and parking lots were opened over the weekend,” he continued. “It will take a couple of weeks to thoroughly inspect the mature trees for visible hazardous cracks and remove dangerous broken limbs hanging in the canopy. The tree maintenance contractor was in [June 30] and is chipping up the wood for future mulch. As of [July 3], they have hauled out more than 400 cubic yards of wood chips and have over 200 cubic yards piled up in Lot 41B. Nothing will be wasted. It may be a few weeks before all the debris is removed.”

Power outages associated with the storm temporarily closed a number of NIH leased facilities in Montgomery County, including Rockledge I and Twinbrook III. The NIH Animal Center in Poolesville also lost electricity and was operating on emergency backup power. NIHAC also had many fallen trees and limbs and sustained roof damage.

the derecho felled this tree limb in the side yard of a residence on North Dr.

Above, the derecho felled this tree limb in the side yard of a residence on North Dr.

two views of a construction trailer along the perimeter fence at Old Georgetown Rd two views of a construction trailer along the perimeter fence at Old Georgetown Rd

Above, two views of a construction trailer along the perimeter fence at Old Georgetown Rd. that was struck by a white pine during the storm. At right, a look inside the trailer shows damage to its ceiling.

Below, several other trees fell or lost large limbs during the storm, including one at parking lot 41B near the Fitness Center trailer (l) and another near the firehouse and Bldg. 63 (r).

a look inside the trailer shows damage to its ceiling
several other trees fell or lost large limbs during the storm Aug. 4, 2011—Thirseveral other trees fell or lost large limbs during the storm

Areas outside the NIH fence weren’t spared either, as the image below shows a sizable branch down along NIH property near Battery Ln.

the derecho felled this tree limb in the side yard of a residence on North Dr.


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