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Tornado Touches Down in Va.; Rainfall Sets Record in Pa.

June 25, 1996

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) _ A rare tornado in the Washington area damaged 25 homes and knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers. The storms also produced hail as big as golf balls and lightning that set fire to apartment buildings.

A utility company mechanic working to restore power in Washington died today after she touched a high-voltage power line.

The storm system also battered Pennsylvania with large hail and record rain, and more than 200,000 homes and businesses lost electrical service there and in Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio.

The tornado moved eastward through the densely populated area during the afternoon Monday.

``We started to hear rumbling, our ears started popping and then we heard things flying around,″ said Gabe Joseph of Centreville. Joseph said he and his wife herded their children into the basement.

``The skies just opened up,″ said Walter Evans, manager of the Fair Lanes bowling alley in Centreville. ``The rain was torrential. We have a bunch of trees in front of the building. They were just leveled.″

Fairfax County fire officials condemned five homes and declared 20 others uninhabitable until repairs were made. About 47,000 customers still had no electricity this morning, said Patty Campbell, a spokeswoman for Virginia Power.

In Henrico County, simultaneous lightning strikes started fires in two apartment buildings about 75 yards apart, damaging 20 apartments and displacing about 20 people, fire officials said.

In Washington, 38-year-old Delores McRae was killed today while she was trying to repair a downed line for Potomac Electric Power Co. A woman seriously burned in Oxon Hill, Md., by a kerosene lamp she was using during the power outage.

More than 150,000 customers were blacked out in Maryland, where the storms brought wind up to 75 mph and a funnel cloud that apparently never touched down.

In Pennsylvania, wind up to 68 mph lashed the western part of the state, knocking out power to 51,000 homes and businesses.

Officials recorded 3.11 inches of rain at Pittsburgh International Airport, a record for the date. The old record was 2.38 inches, set in 1950.

The storms also cut power to more than 30,000 customers in West Virginia, where some small streams were out of their banks, and to some 12,000 customers in Ohio.

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