A lightning strike at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport's control tower grounded all flights about 2:30 p.m. Airport officials announced to passengers about two hours later flights would soon resume.
Federal Aviation Administration officials confirmed that lightning struck the tower, and said it remains out of commission. The Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control, which handles air traffic control in the areas around the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas, has assumed control of BWI air traffic.
Airport officials said via Twitter flights would resume around 6 p.m., though two runways remained closed.
Shortly after flights resumed at the airport, travelers were scrambling to rearrange plans, making calls on their cell phones and lining up at ticket counters.
Lacey Shaver, 28, was sitting on the floor near the airport lost and found office, charging her phone. The Washington, D.C., resident was headed to Memphis for a high school reunion and a work conference on urban sustainability.
But she had a problem checking her luggage, and there was so much confusion during the outage that she wasn't even sure whether her flight had taken off.
"I have no idea if it's canceled," she said as she waited for ticketing lines to die down so she could figure out her next steps. "In about 30 or 45 minutes, I couldn't find anyone to talk to."
A severe thunderstorm watch was issued across Central Maryland until 10 p.m. Thursday as a cold front heads toward the warm, moist air over the region.
A watch indicates that there is strong potential for storms with damaging winds, heavy rain and lightning. The watch extends across the state from Washington County in Western Maryland to the upper Eastern Shore.
Earlier Thursday, storms popped up around the Baltimore area as temperatures rose toward the 90s. The storms cooled temperatures off to 75 degrees at BWI Airport by 3 p.m.
An area of high pressure has been dominating the eastern U.S., bringing warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. But a cold front is coming from the northwest with colder, drier air that is prompting the storms.
Fog is possible overnight Thursday as cold air drops temperatures to the 60s.
Things are expected to get cooler and drier for the weekend. Highs Friday are forecast in the upper 70s, with lows in the 50s, while Saturday temperatures may not break 70 degrees and lows could drop into the 40s.
Sunday and into early next week, seasonable temperatures are expected with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s and 60s.