A huge front-end loader plowed through the front of a Safeway Store in Purcellville, Va., early yesterday morning, scooped up a 4,000 pound safe and trundled away with an undetermined amount of cash, checks and coupons, police in Loudoun County reported yesterday.

The front of the store was a mess yesterday afternoon, and the tool of the crime, a giant piece of construction machinery police believe was stolen 30 miles away in Manassas several days ago, stood abandoned near the store in the Loudoun Valley Shopping Center on East Main Street.

Sgt. Tom Putman of the Purcellville Police Department said someone apparently drove the front-end loader through the glass and metal front of the store at about 4:15 a.m. yesterday, wrapped steel cables around the heavy metal safe, hoisted it onto the back of a truck waiting outside and drove away. Putman said police were alerted by someone who saw the safe being removed.

Safeway spokeswoman Madge Bush said it will take store officials some time to figure out how much money was in the safe, but Putman said he believed it was "quite some amount."

The safe was located in the store's only check-out station at the front of the store, Bush said. She said the station was "run over and pulled down" by the front-end loader, and glass and metal from the front of the store was scattered across the floor. Some display stands were damaged, she added.

Bush said that none of the brick walls was knocked down, and the store's foundations appeared unharmed. The store opened for business in the afternoon, she said, while employes tried to "assess the damage and get someone to start repairing."

According to Prince William County Police, the front-end loader was reported stolen from a construction company on Rte. 234 in Manassas several days ago