It was a breezy, exceptionally warm Indian summer day, and leaf-lookers turned out in force yesterday to see the last of the fall foliage while the colors were at their peak.
Traffice was so heavy at Fort Washington in Oxon Hill, and at Great Falls on both the Maryland and Virginia sides that the U.S. Park Police were obliged to close the parks for the better half the afternoon.
"I guess they knew the Redskins would lose," said U.S. Park Police Sgt. Harold Cunningham, referring to the droves of sightseers who streamed into the parks yesterday.
Meanwhile, at the Blue Ridge Parkway U.S. Ranger Kenneth Barfield, weathering his 18th autumn at the station, called the traffic of sightseers and picnickers "the heaviest it's ever been."
"The weather had a lot to do with it, and the peak of the color," Barfield said yesterday. In Washington, the mescury touched 79 degrees just before 5 p.m.
But at Ocean City, Md., the usual Sunday traffic of boardwalkers and beachgoers did not materialize, despite the warm weather. An Ocean City police corporal, Steven Bloodsworth suggested that the beaches had been deserted for the mountains and the fall foliage.
Although traffic moved smoothly throughout the day, cars were bumper to bumper for about five miles in later afternoon at the Gainesville intersections of Highways 211, 29 and 55, according to the Virginia State Police. Police attributed the crush to foliage watchers descending en masse from the mountains and Skyline Drive, and heading back to Washington.