Recipe for a Traffic Disaster;

Blasting Powder Brings Things to a Halt

Combine in Mixing Bowl: 17 tons of blasting powder; tens of thousands of harried, hot commuters; hundreds of evacuated residents; and the threat of a big, big bang. Roast for 17 hours.

The result? A colossal mess. But, happily, no explosion (other than tempers).

The day was miserable for many, but it was exceptionally egregious for Juanita I. Kirk, of Phoenix. The 41-year-old truck driver lost control of her rig as she headed up the ramp connecting northbound Shirley Highway with the outer loop of the Beltway. The truck, carrying black powder to an explosives factory in Vermont, then flipped off the left side of the ramp. Kirk was charged with reckless driving.

But that wasn't the half of it. The truck's highly volatile freight forced highway closures that crippled the region's road network all day as emergency teams worked to remove the threatening load. Firefighters doused the rig with water to cool the 680 50-pound boxes of powder. "I've been living here all my life, and I'm pretty easygoing, but this is the worst," said Pete Owens, 38, of Woodbridge. He had spent four hours in traffic during the morning commute. "I could have murdered someone."

But at least one couple caught in the confusion had reason to celebrate. Wesley Cooper helped his wife, Venita, deliver their 8-pound baby daughter. Emergency workers, hindered by the traffic jam, arrived 20 minutes later.

Home Again;

Rescuers Find Lost Charles County Toddler

Michael Donohue was filthy, but fine.

Twenty-three hours after the 2-year-old left his swing set and his mother to follow his dog around the corner of his home in rural Charles County, the search by hundreds of police officers and volunteers through briar-choked woods ended happily. Finally, after crews had crisscrossed 2,500 acres using horses, all-terrain vehicles, motor bikes and a helicopter, searcher Laura Totis called, and Michael answered.

Supplied with a chocolate bar, water and a previously missing shoe, the boy chatted with La Plata police Sgt. Wayne Wathen on their half-mile trek to the nearest road. He downed a couple of jelly doughnuts before he was whisked away to a La Plata hospital, where doctors pulled a few ticks off him, pronounced him well and sent him home.

"He looks great. He has rosy cheeks. He's smiling," said Judy Gainer, a cousin of Michael's mother, Denise. "Our prayers were answered."

Aftermath of a Car Crash;

Teen Charged in Fatal Accident

A Fairfax County teenager was charged with driving while intoxicated after a car accident that killed a passenger and seriously injured three others, including the driver. The high school senior who died, Matthew Dawson, 18, was remembered as a helpful young man interested in electronics. "We do everything we can," said Margie Wheedleton, a neighbor of the Dawsons'. "We have them sign pledges [not to drink and drive] at school, we put out the wrecked cars. . . . What more can you do?"

Slaying Suspect Arrested;

Fairfax Man Found in Florida

The Fairfax County man named as a suspect in the deaths of his parents and grandfather was arrested in Florida, three weeks after the bodies were found in a fallout shelter behind their house in the Lorton area. Keith J. Gardner, 39, didn't resist when arrested on a warrant charging him with a probation violation stemming from a 1989 drug conviction. "He understood we had a job to do," said Ricky Shelby, an investigator with the Escambia County sheriff's department in Pensacola. He was flown yesterday to Fairfax, where he was held on the probation charges.

In the Money;

Maryland State House to Show Up on Quarters

Flip a coin, and you just might find an image of the State House dome in Annapolis staring back at you. Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) picked the image to represent Maryland on millions of 25-cent pieces to be circulated throughout the country starting next March. It's the seventh in a decade-long series of quarters representing all 50 states.

Across the Region

Charges Dismissed; Winning Word

* Prosecutor Molly Frio has twice brought a former Fairfax County principal to trial on charges that he sexually abused a child, and twice a jury has deadlocked. So Frio decided to dismiss the four felony charges against Anthony M. Rizzo Jr., saying she would be unable to present any more evidence to a third jury. But Rizzo, 62, former principal at Edison High School, may not be in the clear yet. The chief prosecutor in Orange County, Va., where Rizzo's accuser said some of the assaults occurred, said he might seek an indictment.

* Got a word to sum up "excessive talkativeness?"

Try logorrhea. That's right, l-o-g-o-r-r-h-e-a.

Leave it to 14-year-old Nupur Lala, the Tampa girl who captured the top title at the 72nd annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on Thursday, to spell the word correctly. Nupur, a straight-A eighth-grader, beat 248 contestants and won $10,000 and two round-trip airline tickets, along with a batch of other awards. David Lewandowski, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Munster, Ind., won second place and $5,000 in the two-day competition.

-- Erica Johnston and Steven Gray

Panda Taken Ill;

Zoo's Biggest Attraction Has Kidney Failure

Hsing-Hsing, a black and white study in Cold War politics and the power to transcend it, is ailing.

The giant panda, a bamboo-munching gift from China during the Nixon administration, has chronic, irreversible kidney failure, officials at the National Zoo said. Veterinarians there can't say how long he will live, but they say this is probably his final illness.

But don't count out the zoo's number one attraction. "He has surprised us with his ability to respond," veterinarian Lucy Spelman said. "He's really tough."

Hsing-Hsing is believed to be one of the longest-lived giant pandas in the world and is too old for dialysis or a transplant. Instead, he has been given intravenous fluids to counter dehydration, and he is on anti-nausea medication to encourage him to eat.

Meanwhile, zoo officials are negotiating with the Chinese government for another pair of giant pandas. They started talks about a year ago and are set to travel to China this month. But the talks have bogged down over money--China charges $1 million a year for a loaner pair of pandas--and any deal could be vetoed by Chinese leaders.

Days of Mourning;

D.C. Firefighters Bury 2 Colleagues

Kwame Roberts was enjoying the Memorial Day weekend at his cousin's home in Atlanta when his mother called at 2 a.m. Minutes later, the D.C. firefighter was on the road, making the 12-hour drive back home for the saddest of reasons.

Anthony Phillips, Roberts's friend at Engine Company 10, had died shortly after battling a town house fire in Northeast. The blaze later claimed the life of firefighter Louis J. Matthews, 29, of Mitchellville, marking the first time since 1911 that the city has lost two firefighters in a single incident. And two colleagues were seriously burned. Firefighter Joseph Morgan Jr., 36, is listed in critical condition.

Phillips, 30, of Lanham Hills, was a husband and the father of a 6-year-old son and a 21-month-old daughter. To Roberts, "he was my cup of coffee," the guy nicknamed "Sauce" who came into the firehouse as Roberts finished his shift.

The blaze had at first appeared relatively routine, and the home's residents got out before firefighters arrived. But then superheated gases exploded into flames in what is called a "flashover." Colleagues who had escaped the town house before it exploded reentered to find Phillips unconscious and the others semi-alert.

"It was just an ordinary, routine fire," Roberts said. "It just got ugly so fast. It could have been me. It could have been any one of these guys."

Phillips was an avid basketball fan and an aggressive firefighter, a proud four-year member of Engine Company 10, the busiest fire station in the country.

"It takes a special breed to work here, and he did it," Battalion Chief Tom Tippett said of the firehouse, known as the House of Pain. "It's a feather in your cap to get on here."

The cause of the blaze is still undetermined, although fire officials say electrical problems are a possibility.

CAPTION: Hsing-Hsing is one of two pandas given to the United States by China in 1972.

CAPTION: Fellow firefighters place Anthony Phillips's casket on the back of a firetruck at Friday's funeral service.

CAPTION: Fire Chief Donald Edwards greets Lysa Phillips and son Anthony at the funeral of her husband, Anthony Phillips.