Thousands of federal employees were sent home early Monday as the Washington area faced a looming forecast for destructively strong storms, including tornadoes, hail and lightning.
The Office of Personnel Management announced Monday that all non-emergency employees would have to depart before 3 pm, when all federal offices would close. This rare step comes ahead of an impending storm that meteorologists have predicted could be unusually destructive. The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for the greater DC area, lasting until 9 pm, as well as a flood warning extending through Tuesday morning. A special Weather Service statement warned, “There is a significant threat for damaging and locally destructive hurricane-force winds, along with the potential for large hail and tornadoes, even strong tornadoes.” The White House pushed up by 90 minutes President Joe Biden’s departure on a four-day trip that’s taking him to Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The White House also canceled a back-to-school cybersecurity event that was to feature first lady Jill Biden, who is a teacher, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and school administrators, educators and education technology providers from around the country.
Tornado watches were posted across 10 states from Tennessee to New York. But the National Weather Service said the area of greatest concern centered in the Washington-Baltimore region. “This does look to be one of the most impactful severe weather events across the Mid-Atlantic then we have had in some time,” National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong said in a Facebook live briefing.
Also concerning forecasters was the timing of the storms. They were expected to strike major population areas in late afternoon and early evening, prompting federal workers to be sent home early so they wouldn’t be in their cars amid wind, hail and tornadoes.
Strong advised residents: “Have yourself in a strong shelter. Be at home or be at work.”
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