Aloha Chips. Samoas. Ole{acute} Ole{acute}s. The names may conjure up images of warm breezes and swaying palm trees, but there was nothing tropical about the weather that greeted area Girl Scouts marking the beginning of the venerable cookie-selling season yesterday.

Yesterday was the day that Samoas, Thin Mints, Trefoils and the other much-anticipated flavors officially went on sale in the Washington region. And so, under a sky the color of a wet sheep, the air filled with a misty rain that seemed to find its way into every exposed pore, some of the more intrepid of the area's 48,500 Girl Scouts set out, order forms in hand.

Annandale's Emily Rosewitz, 8, was out of the house by 9:15 a.m. Ninety minutes later, she had taken orders for 70 boxes, recording her customers' preferences with a black waterproof marker.

"We moved here this summer from Missouri," said Emily's mother, Nancy. "Last year, it was a blizzard. It doesn't seem that the weather's much better this year."

With that can-do attitude, the nation's nearly 2.8 million Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and Seniors (5- and 6-year-old Daisies aren't allowed to sell cookies) began the national rite of passage for girls. Girl Scouts have been peddling commercially baked cookies since 1934, and the annual sale has become a fixture on calendars. Organizers say that in addition to raising money, the sale helps girls learn organizational skills and bolsters self-confidence. It also teaches a unique form of diplomacy, as prime territory in Girl Scout-rich neighborhoods is carved up like a redrawn congressional voting district.

In Centreville, the temperature hovered around 35 degrees as Emily White, Samantha Golnek and Kelsey Quinn, 9-year-olds from Troop 2666, started knocking on doors.

Chaperoning the trio was Kelsey's mother, Paula. "I heard it pouring last night, and I said, 'No way there's going to be girls out,' " she said. "But they're kids. They're flexible."

Kelsey thought the foul weather might actually motivate her potential customers. "On a cold rainy day, they're bored," she reasoned.

That logic seemed to apply at the first house. "It's an ugly day," said Sue Utterback after she ordered three boxes from Emily. "But it's Girl Scout cookie day."

January has always been the start of the three-month cookie-selling season for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital, an organization that stretches from Calvert to Fauquier counties. Charlene Meidlinger, assistant executive director of the council, was unperturbed by the weather: "I've been tracking this front for four days now, so it was not a surprise."

Nor was she worried. "We have always had a good cookie sale, no matter what the weather. We've gone through blizzards at the start, and that's not deterred the girls from fulfilling their goals. The rain? You're just going to have girls knocking on your door with an umbrella."

Funds raised by the $3 boxes of cookies go to fund troop programs and activities. Although the New York City-based Girl Scouts of the USA doesn't keep an official tally, Meidlinger says customers in the Washington area buy more cookies than anywhere else in the country.

Last year, the region's 3,900 troops sold 4,211,592 boxes. (Thin Mints sell best locally.)

Meidlinger says the knuckle-chapping weather may put a temporary damper on door-to-door sales, but resourceful girls will turn to other methods: telephone calls to neighbors, e-mail solicitations to relatives and, starting in March, "booth sales." Booths set up at shopping centers offer some shelter from the elements, though troop leaders say that shivering in front of a store isn't necessarily preferable to ringing doorbells.

Leslie Goldstein, the leader of Silver Spring's Troop 3709, said, "Traditionally, the day we've done our booth sale has been icy cold, driving rain, with girls wrapped in blankets."

The sympathy angle didn't seem to be working too well in Centreville. After nine houses, there were more "no-thank-yous" than "yes-pleases," and a frigid wind was trying to unstick limp leaves from the sidewalk.

"We're freezing!" said Samantha.

"I can't feel my hands," said Kelsey.

"We'll go home and get warmed up," said her mother. "Get some hot chocolate or something."

In Centreville, Kelsey Quinn, left, Emily White and Samantha Golnek, all 9-year-old scouts, wait as neighbor Sue Utterback studies the cookie list.