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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fire/EMS Department Busy During/After Microburst

By: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

All Photos By: Billy McNeel, Office of Emergency Management

MEDIA CONTACT: Rhonda D. Jackson, 
Division Manager Public Information & Inter-Governmental Relations
Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security/Office of Emergency Management

The combined career, civilian and volunteer resources of the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department were kept busy Friday evening with what officials from the National Weather Service (NWS) called a “micro-burst.”

The NWS had issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning prior to the powerful storm cell moving through the Bladensburg community and surrounding area around 8:00 pm.  A microburst is a very localized column of sinking air, producing damaging divergent and straight-line winds at the surface.  A microburst often has high winds that can knock over fully-grown trees and cause damage to structures. They usually last for a duration of a couple of seconds to several minutes with winds exceeding well over 100 mph.
Firefighters responded to over 235 calls in about 4 hours during and after the storm (a normal 24-hour call volume average is 365 calls).  Personnel searched 28 multi-family apartment buildings to ensure everyone was evacuated and to inspect damage.  At one point during the storm the Fire/EMS Department Medical Ambulance Bus and additional EMS resources were alerted to stand-by at the Prince George’s Hospital Center.  The hospital suffered a power outage and was considering relocating some patients, however, no action was needed and the staff at the hospital handled the situation.

On Friday evening, Assistant Fire Chief Ronald A. Bridges reported that 15 multi-family dwellings and one single-family dwelling sustained roof and/or structural damage near 54th Street and Newton Street. The Roger Heights Elementary School was opened as an evacuation center to house displaced residents, estimated at 300 to 600 people. It is not known how many residents used the shelter.  There were two minor injuries reported (civilian) and both of those individuals were transported to local hospitals in good condition. 

The Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security and the Office of Emergency Management opened the Emergency Operations Center and immediately started to assist residents affected by the storm.  A temporary, air-conditioned, shelter is remains open at the Roger Heights Elementary School, 4301 58th Avenue.  A phone line has been established for residents requiring assistance.  Residents are encouraged to call 301-583-2230 for information.  Some of the building sustained significant damage and residents will incur long-term displacement.  The Office of Emergency Management will be working with apartment complex management and the American Red Cross for relief and shelter.
On Saturday morning, firefighters returned to the area and continued their search for additional damage under the glow of sunlight.  PEPCO reported that there were still about 10,000 homes without power, mostly in the Hyattsville and Bladensburg areas.

The Office of Homeland Security recently posted a Press Release on Saturday morning. 

Press Release
For Immediate Release:
June 23, 2012

For Information Contact:
Rhonda D. Jackson, Division Manager Public Information & Inter-Governmental Relations
Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security/Office of Emergency Management

Bladensburg Microburst Damages Homes and Displaces Residents

Temporary shelter moving to Bladensburg High School beginning at 2pm, Emergency Operation Center Hotline Activated at 301-583-2230

Bladensburg, MD – At approximately 8:07 p.m. on Friday, June 22,  Prince George’s County Emergency responders began deployment to Bladensburg, MD after a confirmed microburst spread through the community. This microburst resulted in severe damage to 15 multi-family dwellings, 1 single family dwelling, and structural damage on Newton Street between 52nd and 55th Avenues in Bladensburg.  There were only a couple of minor injuries according to the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS. 

Residents residing in the affected areas have been vacated. Department of Environmental Resources (DER) and Fire/Emergency Medical Services (Fire/EMS) have inspectors on the scene.  These facilities will remain condemned until an official assessment is determined.  Officials from the American Red Cross and the Department of Social Services are on the scene and are assisting with displaced families. Since last night, a temporary shelter was established at Rodgers Heights Elementary in Bladensburg. 

Beginning at 2pm today, sheltered residents will be moved to Bladensburg High School, 4200 57th Avenue. Any impacted resident needing assistance, information or shelter, should call the Prince George’s County Emergency Operation Center at 301-583-2230.

A microburst is a small, very intense downdraft that descends to the ground resulting in a strong wind divergence.  Microbursts are capable of producing winds of more than 100 mph causing significant damage. The life span of a microburst is around 5-15 minutes.

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