A brief abatement in the cold-weather siege sent temperatures slightly above the freezing mark for the second day in a row yesterday, bringing some relief to local pedestrians and tow truck operators, but none to the ice-bound boats and islands of the Chesapeake Bay.

A Coast Guard cutter, which was breaking a path through 12-inch-thick ice Thursday so that desperately needed heating oil could get to Smith Island off the coast of Maryland's Eastern Shore, was instead disabled by the ice.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Gary Erickson said that the tanker, laden with 6,000 gallons of fuel oil, continued up Tangier Sound in the Chesapeake Bay to the island alone yesterday, while the Coast Guard cutter was towed back to Portsmouth, Va.

Tangier Island residents nearby received 3,000 pounds of food and about 15 cartons of medicine by helicopter on Thursday. Another delivery to the ice-bound island is expected next week.

Tangier Island Mayor Robert Thorne said the temperature peaked at 35 degrees there yesterday, but that still wasn't enough to melt the ice.

In the Washington area, the weather is expected to be partly cloudy, windy and much colder today. The National Weather Service predicted highs in the upper 20s and lows between 10 and 15. No rain or snow is expected.

Virginia officials continue to urge state residents to conserve energy - keep thermostats set at 65 degrees and below - because of the natural gas shortage, which has closed some schools and slowed production in some industrial areas.

Ryland Bailey of the Virginia State Corporation Commission said some cities are using natural gas supplies that had been budgeted for later periods this year. "It's a very serious situation," he said.

Montgomery County school officials sent a memorandum to all schools this week asking administrators, teachers and students to conserve energy and cease using such power-draining equipment as pottery kilns.

Local transportation officers have reported during the past few days that the once-critical shortage of road salt has been relieved by a number of new deliveries.

The Maryland state official in Greenbelt responsible for keeping the main throughfares of Montgomery and Prince George's counties clear said that he now has a supply of 3,000 tons of salt, enough for two snows.

Two ships loaded with about 87,000 tons of salt are expected to arrive in the Port of Baltimore early next week.

The cold temperatures relaxed a little elsewhere, giving the Midwest and the South some respite from severe and in some cases unprecedented cold weather, but the icy legacy of the cold remains.

A 58-mile-long ice jam on the Mississippi River near Cairo, Ill., was getting bigger yesterday, forcing the Coast Guard to close a 16-mile stretch of the river to navigation.

The Coast Guard was worried that a sudden breaking-up of the ice jam could present a severe danger to boats downstream, both from jagged ice flows and from the sudden flood of water that might accompany a breakup.

Ice averaging six inches in thickness is also choking 981 miles of the Ohio River.

In West Virginia, some 15,000 to 22,000 coal miners have been laid off thanks to a logjam of coal-filled railroad cars at far-away distribution points that has left miners with nothing to load coal into.In Baltimore, Norfolk, and Newport News, Va., coal has frozen inside the cars and backed up loading procedures by as much as 75 per cent.

Out West, however, some areas were wishing for a little more winter. In Idaho, Key Airlines has laid off 43 of 99 employs because of reduced ski traffic at snow-starved Sun Valley.

To make matters worse for the shivering East, Midwest and South, a Boston meteorologist is predicting that this year marks the first of three successive abnormally cold winters.

"The Arctic is just dumping all of its cold air down here," said Hurd C. Willett, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.