Floyd Less Furious Than Feared; Sighs of Relief After Storm Leaves Only Minor Damage

The much-feared "Big One" turned out to be more of a small-to-medium one.

The storm formerly known as Hurricane Floyd was great in girth and nasty by nature, and it frightened Eastern officials into the largest evacuation in the country's history. And the tempest's toll was considerable: Five deaths were reported in Maryland and Virginia; hundreds of thousands of people lost electricity; schools were closed; and rail, road and air travel was disrupted.

In Virginia and Maryland, the brunt of the storm fell on Tidewater Virginia, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, and thousands of coastal residents fled their homes. But the tempest had lost much of its oomph by the time it huffed and puffed its way up the Atlantic coast to the Washington area.

"You don't want to say it's a letdown, but you get all geared up to respond, and it's a pretty minimal impact," said Steve Strawderman, battalion chief with Prince William County's fire and rescue department. "I mean, this was less than what a thunderstorm does."

But don't tell that to Virginia State Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax).

Gartlan and his wife, Fredona, were getting dressed at their home in the Mason Neck area of eastern Fairfax County when a 100-foot poplar tree crashed through the roof of their home and landed in an adjacent bathroom, about a foot away from them. Neither was hurt.

"This is our dream house, and I've always said there's no way anyone can take me away from this house except in a box," Gartlan said. "Boy, it got pretty close."

But there was a silver lining in the storm clouds: The drought, experts say, is pretty much over for now.

Trouble on and off the Field; Redskins Fans Fume at Parking Shortage, Last-Minute Loss

The first Redskins game under its new owner was a huge disappointment to fans, but the parking situation may have been just as tough to take as the overtime loss to Dallas. After a colossal traffic crush that backed cars up as far as Wisconsin Avenue on the Capital Beltway, about 20 miles from Redskins Stadium, team owner Daniel M. Snyder promised to build thousands more parking spots. But you'll have to wait--the new spaces won't be ready until next year.

The problem last week? Simply put, there were 30,000 motorists battling for 22,000 spots at the stadium. Maryland State Police also reported that relatively few people used Metro shuttles or car-pooled. Officials promised to ease the parking problem for the next home game, on Oct. 3, but they didn't say how they'd do it. Possible solutions include rerouting traffic flow into stadium lots, encouraging the use of mass transportation and improving road signs.

"This should not have happened, and we will not experience this again," said Royce Holloway, a spokesman for Prince George's County police. "Fans can expect to see an improvement. They will not have to sit in traffic when they should be inside watching the game."

Baltimore's Mayoral Race

O'Malley Wins Democratic Nod

A City Council member who vowed to make Baltimore's streets safe again by cracking down on even minor infractions ran away with the Democratic nomination for mayor, a likely springboard to the top post in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 9 to 1.

Martin O'Malley will face Republican primary winner David F. Tufaro, a developer, in the Nov. 2 general election after O'Malley captured 53 percent of the vote in a field of 17 Democrats.

O'Malley, who is white, won the endorsement of prominent African American leaders such as Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore), helping him shake criticism that he took advantage of a vote split among African Americans.

"This is a victory for diversity and a victory for inclusiveness, and it is a resounding defeat for divisiveness, fear and the worn-out politics of the past," O'Malley said. "It's time to build a new Baltimore."

If he wins the general election, O'Malley, a 36-year-old lawyer, would be Baltimore's youngest mayor ever. The victor will succeed Kurt L. Schmoke (D), the city's first elected black mayor, who decided not to seek a fourth term.

Increase in Asian Residents

Region's Suburbs Home to Most

According to the Census Bureau, Fairfax and Montgomery counties are now among the 25 counties in the nation with the highest share of Asian American residents.

There are now more than 333,000 Asians in the Washington area--a 50 percent climb since 1990. That's close to the size of the also fast-growing local Latino community of almost 355,000.

In other U.S. metropolitan areas, the Asian population is often dominated by one or two ethnic groups but the Washington area has five major groups represented in large numbers: Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Vietnamese and Filipinos.

More than 95 percent of the region's Asians live in the suburbs, about two of every three live in Fairfax or Montgomery.

Metro Votes on Later Hours

Weekend Service to Be Extended

The Metro subway system, which currently halts operations at midnight, in a manner reminiscent of Cinderella's coach, took a first step toward keeping trains rolling into the wee hours.

A committee of the transit system's board decided by a 4 to 2 vote to keep the system open until 1 a.m. on weekends for a trial period of eight months. Advocates of extended hours noted the possibility of reducing highway hazards by offering carousers and imbibers an alternate way home.

Foes of the plan cited a need to improve commuter service before spending on frills.

Marijuana Votes to Be Released

Court Overturns Congressional Block

District voters could learn early this week the outcome of the initiative to legalize medical use of marijuana. It appeared on their ballots last November. A federal judge ruled Friday that Congress can no longer block release of the results. Congress tacked an amendment onto last year's D.C. appropriations bill that kept the vote from being made public, an act that led to a fierce legal battle.

Across the Region

Metro Stops Open, Odenton Deaths

* A District jury wasn't swayed by Marlene Kent Cooke's argument that the case against her was a "waste of money and time." The widow of longtime Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke was convicted of driving drunk, her second such conviction in six years. She is to be sentenced in about six weeks.

* The "missing link" is no longer missing. The last two pieces in Metro's original subway plan opened with fanfare, bringing rapid transit to the District's Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue-Petworth areas. The rest of the planned system--a seven-mile stretch from Anacostia to Branch Avenue in Prince George's County--should be done in two years.

* Two young brothers died in a house fire in Odenton started by a candle used for light after power was cut to the home because the electricity bill hadn't been paid. Charles and Joshua Feick, ages 5 and 10, and the two other youngsters in the family were "the nicest boys, very studious," a neighbor said. "They always called everybody 'sir' and 'ma'am.' "

* Washington and four states will get $20 million each for reducing out-of-marriage births. The District's out-of-marriage birth rate dropped by 3.7 percent from 1994-95 to 1996-97--second only to California. In the same period, the city's number of abortions dropped even more, by 11.4 percent. Alabama, Massachusetts and Michigan also will get the reward, which was part of the 1996 welfare reform act.

* Virginia's ban on "partial birth" abortions will remain in effect for at least six months, and possibly for more than a year. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that the state's ban is enforceable pending appeal of a lower-court ruling that declared the ban unconstitutional.

* For the District, it may be a case of close, but no cigar. The city's budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 was approved by the House and then the Senate. But President Clinton may veto it because Republicans attached measures banning legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and a needle exchange intended to slow the spread of HIV. Democrats say that the District should be able to decide its own policies.

* For Lawrence M. Small, one problem with being president of Fannie Mae was that he could make it to Washington's museums only on weekends. But Small--a fierce flamenco guitarist in his spare time--soon will be able to stroll the hallowed halls of the world's largest museum complex full time, without goofing off. Small, 59, will take over Jan. 1 as leader of the Smithsonian Institution, taking the reins from I. Michael Heyman, who is retiring.