Washingtonians, wilted and worn from nine consecutive sizzlers, greeted a meager one-degree dip in maximum temperature yesterday as if it were a wintry blast from the Arctic.

And the forecast for today of a real respite from the summer siege sent them into raptures as the National Weather Service predicted temperatures in the low- to mid-80s during the day and in the 60s at night.

"The 80s," said a relieved Julie Beck, who manages the Tidal Basin boat house. "That's a cold wave for us."

National Park Ranger Wayne Braxton, who works outside the Washington Monument, suggested, "Come back tomorrow and you'll see tears of happiness."

Although the maximum temperature barely fell yesterday, to 95, Weather Service forecaster Calvin Meadows said a drop in humidity made it feel much cooler.

He said the "comfort index" -- a measure of how hot it feels when the relative humidity is figured in with the temperature -- was 98 yesterday, while it was well over 100 several days last week. "Ninety-eight sure feels better than 105," he said.

Forecaster Joe Cefaratti said a cool front from Canada passed through the Washington area yesterday with a high-pressure air mass behind it that promises comfortable temperatures at least until the weekend.

The cool air mass displaced a Bermuda high that had been anchored over the region for more than a week, producing sticky, uncomfortable weather. Temperatures soared to 100 degrees twice last week, to 99 Saturday and to 96 Sunday.

But many Washingtonians, especially those who make their living outdoors, said they could feel a keen difference yesterday when the thermometer reached 95 degrees. And everyone seemed to have his own way of measuring that difference. "This is relief," insisted Chris Hathaway, who races through the District on his 15-speed bicycle for Bankers Courier service. "For one thing, you can breathe."

Stacey McCall, who has spent days with a crew digging up 15th Street NW to replace a gas main, said he could tell that it was cooler because his appetite was back. Last week, he said, he could "hardly eat a hot dog for lunch. Today I ate ribs."

Chris Furnas, the tennis pro at Kenwood Golf and Country Club in Bethesda, said his pupils took fewer trips to the water cooler yesterday and were able to complete their lessons.

Many people in service jobs said the attitude of their customers was a far better measure of the heat than any thermometer.

"I don't want to be quoted," said one man, "but tempers get a little bit higher when it's hot." A cabdriver commented, "There were some mean people out here last week. But at least I've got air {conditioning}, and that saved me."

The National Park Service's Tom Shimkin, who drives an information cart around the Mall, said, "People didn't care about anything last week. They'd say, 'Let's go to this museum,' but they really didn't want to go anywhere, except back to their air-conditioned hotels. Today, people were really interested again."

Still, remnants of the heat wave remained.

Two Trans World Airlines ticket agents fainted yesterday from the heat at National Airport, where the air conditioning has been broken in the TWA-Northwest Airlines terminal because of a Virginia Power outage, according to TWA's station manager, Frank Hannigan. When the electricity came back on after the outage, a power surge knocked out the air-conditioning system, he said. The ticket agents were treated for heat exhaustion and released at the National Hospital for Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation in Arlington, according to hospital officials.

Hannigan said fans were brought in to circulate air but temperatures remained in the 90s inside the terminal. Officials said they hope to have the air conditioning repaired in a few days.

Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, where an electrical malfunction shut down a water treatment plant at the height of the heat wave last week, one official said yesterday, "Everything is back to normal."

Ted Domazet, director of operations and maintenance for the Fairfax County Water Authority, said the blown transformer that crippled the Potomac Corbalis treatment plant near Great Falls Friday was replaced temporarily Saturday with a mobile substation. Although the shutdown prompted fears that thousands of residents would be without water during the severe heat spell, Domazet said the impact had been "minimal," adding, "We were never out of water."

Weather forecasters said residents should try to enjoy the moderate weather while it lasts because the Bermuda high could return this weekend, bringing another round of hot, humid days.

Washingtonians appeared ready, having gotten their heat wave routine down pat.

"We've spent an hour outside," a young man said to his girlfriend yesterday as they walked hand in hand from the paddle-boat dock at the Tidal Basin. "Now let's find some artificial air. Where's the closest museum?"