THE REGION

Mayor Says D.C. Is Safe for Y2K

Despite the cancellation of New Year's Eve events by the Seattle mayor, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said yesterday that he is certain Washington will be safe for the local and national events here.

Touring the city's emergency command center, Williams said, "We remain confident we'll have the deployment and intelligence to prevent any threat to our citizens."

Williams defended the city's purchase of seven $7,000 satellite phones and a $450,000 mobile command center as needed investments for the year 2000 date change and beyond. Such purchases must be made, he said, "before a crisis erupts."

The command center, at the Reeves Municipal Center at 14th and U Streets NW, will begin full operations at 8 a.m. tomorrow and stay open until 8 a.m. Tuesday. From there, the District government will monitor and respond to any disruptions caused by computers that haven't been debugged. No one is predicting disruptions, but officials want to be prepared.

Also yesterday, D.C. police introduced their new $400,000 command center, at police headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave. NW., which will work in conjunction with the facility at the Reeves Center through the weekend.

Group Targets Repeat Drunk Drivers

With New Year's Eve on the horizon, Mothers Against Drunk Driving called on lawmakers yesterday to crack down on repeat drunk drivers, who the group says are more likely than any computer glitch to cause a "Y2K crash."

The group said states need tougher laws to deal with those who drive drunk repeatedly, despite being arrested, and who drive with blood alcohol levels greater than 0.15--almost twice the legal limit in the District and Maryland, Virginia and 15 other states.

MADD launched its national "Higher Risk Driver" campaign because "drunk driving is the most serious Y2K problem that we will have in the next few days," said Karolyn Nunnallee, national president of MADD.

On a typical day, 38 percent of all fatal collisions involve alcohol, Nunnallee said. However, over the past two New Year's holidays, she said, nearly 63 percent of all highway deaths were alcohol-related, making it the deadliest holiday of the year.

MARYLAND

Crab Harvest Up in '99 but Remains Low

Commercial watermen in Maryland hauled in 33.7 million pounds of blue crabs this year--7.5 million pounds more than the disastrous 1998 season, but well below the 38 million pound average of the last eight years.

The figures, released in preliminary reports from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, are roughly what biologists expected after their winter dredge survey in January, said Eric Schwaab, head of the department's fisheries division.

Crab harvest figures are being watched closely as more Chesapeake Bay scientists fear that the most valuable commercial fishery in the bay is teetering on the edge of a crash.

St. John's to Get a Newton Apple Tree

Students at St. John's College, where Sir Isaac Newton's "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" is required reading, someday may have the pleasure of being beaned with a descendent of Newton's famous apple.

With luck and a few good growing seasons, the school in Annapolis will have a sapling from the tree whose falling apple led Newton to ponder gravity three centuries ago.

The St. John's Class of 1999 gave the college an apple from Newton's mother's estate in England, with hopes that a seed would sprout. The gift was meant to add a historic Flower of Kent apple tree to the small campus, where students study the "Great Books" curriculum.

"It is something that relates to the program," said Kelly O'Malley, who coordinated the class gift. In their junior year, all "Johnnies" read Newton's 1687 "Principia," a foundation of modern science and mathematics.

Lawyer Named to Special Appeals Court

Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) has appointed Prince George's County lawyer Peter Krausner to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court.

Krausner, 52, has served as a public defender, managed his own law firm and, for the last two years, headed the Maryland Democratic Party. State Republican leaders indicated yesterday that they did not object to the appointment, calling Krausner well-qualified.

Glendening said Krausner is "an outstanding lawyer with a wide range of legal experience that will make him a superb addition" to the court.

VIRGINIA

18 Die on Roads During Holiday

Period Eighteen people died on Virginia roads over the Christmas holiday period, three times as many as last year and the most since 1984, the state police reported yesterday.

The fatalities were the result of 16 accidents between 6 p.m. Dec. 22 and midnight Sunday. That compares with six over the same 102-hour period last year, said Col. M. Wayne Huggins, Virginia State Police superintendent. Alcohol was a known factor in six of the crashes, and at least 10 victims were not wearing seat belts, Huggins said.

As of yesterday, there were 849 traffic fatalities in Virginia in 1999, down about 7 percent from the same period last year, records show.

No Injuries in Manassas Plane Crash

A single-engine private plane crashed while landing yesterday at Manassas Regional Airport after a portion of its nose gear gave way, airport officials said. The lone pilot was not injured.

The Piper Musketeer four-seater appeared to land normally just before 2 p.m., but the nose gear buckled upon impact. Airport manager Bruce Lawson said the plane's propeller struck the pavement and sent the plane veering into a grassy area just off of the runway.

Authorities did not identify the pilot, who they said had been moving his plane from Leesburg to Manassas, where he planned to base it.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"A lot of it, I think, is the hype. A lot of it is fear of Y2K, or people have to work. I think a lot of people realized it's just another night."

--Carolyn Montrose, sales director for the Hyatt Regency Bethesda, on lagging public response to extravagant events planned for New Year's Eve.