MARYLAND

Oysters Abundant but Vulnerable

Oysters are plentiful in the Chesapeake Bay because of a near-record spawning in 1997 but are vulnerable to several drought-induced diseases that threaten to kill off this year's crop.

The oysters are reaching marketable size in time for the opening of the oyster season, said Chris Judy, head of shellfish programs at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Saltier water in the Chesapeake Bay due to the drought also encouraged the growth of the shellfish.

But the salty water also created the right conditions for Dermo and MSX, diseases that are not harmful to humans but are deadly to oysters.

Dead oysters, all infected with Dermo, were found in a sample taken recently from Tangier Sound on the lower Eastern Shore, said Chris Dungan, a research scientist at the laboratory that the University of Maryland and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operate in Oxford.

While the sample was too small for conclusions to be drawn, Dungan said, "we're worried when we see samples like that."

Chemical Fire on Truck Forces Evacuation

A truck carrying a highly flammable chemical erupted into flames last night in northern Frederick County, causing more than 100 small explosions and the evacuation of 30 homes and businesses. No one was injured.

The truck, owned by East West Nail Supply of Northern Virginia, was carrying more than 10,000 bottles of nail polish and numerous eight-gallon containers of acetone, said Wayne Powell, spokesman for the Emmitsburg Fire Company. Acetone is a highly flammable chemical used in explosives and nail polish remover that can cause lung damage after prolonged exposure.

The driver said he was on his way to Harrisburg, Pa., about 8 p.m. when he noticed that the left rear tire was smoking. He pulled onto the side of Route 15, across from a gasoline station, as the truck caught fire.

Residents in homes that fell beyond the half-mile evacuation area were told to stay indoors, as were students and staff at nearby Mount St. Mary's College and the National Emergency Training Center.

VIRGINIA

1 Million Voter ID Cards to Be Mailed

Nearly 1 million registered voters in 10 Virginia localities, includingArlington and Fairfax counties, will receive voter-identification cards in the mail before the November elections.

Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) released about $300,000 this week for the State Board of Elections to pay for the mailing. Republicans say the ID cards will help cut down on fraud. They narrowly pushed a pilot ID program through the General Assembly. But many Democrats worry that ID cards are an attempt to reduce turnout of black voters.

A letter explaining the pilot program will accompany the ID cards. The other localities involved in the pilot program are Bedford, Frederick and Henry counties and the cities of Charlottesville, Colonial Heights, Norfolk, Roanoke and Virginia Beach.

Arlington Eases Emergency Day-Care Cost

Parents at three Arlington elementary schools who were forced to put their children in school-administered day care because of last-minute bus schedule changes will not be charged for the first three months, the county School Board decided.

The board voted 4 to 0 Thursday night to absorb the initial costs for inconvenienced parents at Abingdon, Key and the Arlington Traditional schools. A shortage of bus drivers forced the county to delay school opening times by as much as 70 minutes.

County officials have given little hope of solving the problem this school year, and parents will have to pay fees, in some cases as high as $150 a month, after the third month.

THE DISTRICT

School Told to Get New Lease or Vacate

The D.C. Board of Education told operators of the Kwame Nkrumah International School yesterday that they must vacate the building they occupy or negotiate a new lease. The charter school opened this month without obtaining the board's permission.

Board President Wilma R. Harvey (Ward 1) said panel members held hours of talks on the situation, involving some 270 students from kindergarten through grade 12 attending class at the Rabaut school building on Peabody Street in Northwest Washington.

Kwame Nkrumah officials did not return telephone calls to discuss their plans.

School officials have a lease to occupy the third floor of the Rabaut building, but that lease is contingent on Kwame Nkrumah winning approval to operate as a public charter school. Harvey said it was not likely that Kwame Nkrumah would win a charter any time soon and would have to obtain a new lease as an independent school.

A spokesman for Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said Ackerman had not been told of the board's ultimatum to Kwame Nkrumah. It was not clear whether Ackerman's administration would grant a new lease to the school.

Georgetown Researcher Wins Prize

Scientist Karl Pribram, a Georgetown University professor who has been at the forefront of brain research for 60 years, will be awarded the first Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Prize, which honors "great thinkers" who have contributed to their field.

Pribram will travel to Prague to receive the award Tuesday from Czech President Vaclav Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that brought about the collapse of the Communist government in Czechoslovakia.

Pribram, a neurosurgeon who has made major advancements in neurophysiology, neuropsychology and neurophilosophy, is of Czech ancestry and will receive the prize at the Prague university his father attended.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "They're going to find it's not that easy to do,

costs a lot of money and causes a lot of disruption. You simply move traffic jams around and eventually attract more cars." -- Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman (D) on the possibility of

widening Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway. Page B7.