The White House, State Department, and Capitol were hit by widespread power outages across Washington and its suburbs this afternoon, with a fire or explosion at a power plant in southern Maryland to blame. Homeland Security officials said all signs point to an accident, not terrorism, reports the Washington Post. Tens of thousands of people lost power, some briefly, some for longer stretches. Electricity in the White House press briefing room dipped around lunchtime, darkening cubicles and blackening TV screens, but service resumed within seconds.
Power went out at the State Department during the daily press briefing, forcing a spokeswoman to finish comments in the dark. Some traffic lights were out, and Metro said 14 of its 91 public transit stations were affected. Power to the trains remained on and trains were moving, but the affected stations were on emergency power, with dimmer lighting and nonworking elevators and escalators. The Smithsonian tweeted that the outage was affecting some of its museums, and they were evacuated. (Read more power outage stories.)