THE REGION

Storms Topple Trees, Power Lines

New item Vigorous thunderstorms splashed and flashed across the region last night, knocking down trees along a track from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to Fauquier County to the District.

As torrential rains hit, fallen trees temporarily blocked sections of the Capital Beltway and the Clara Barton Parkway in Montgomery County, as well as Interstate 81 south of Martinsburg, W.Va., authorities said.

Vehicle collisions were reported, a tree fell on a house in Glenmont and power lines were downed in spots, authorities said. The National Weather Service received word of a billboard being blown 75 feet in Winchester, Va. Winds gusted to 35 mph at Reagan National Airport.

THE DISTRICT

Work Session Considers Plans for Shaw

The D.C. Office of Planning plans a community work session today to hear from residents about draft proposals for building housing, retail and cultural amenities on public land in the Shaw neighborhood, including the long-vacant Howard Theater.

The meeting is part of an effort to create an Uptown Destination District along Seventh Street NW, from Rhode Island Avenue to the point where it becomes Georgia Avenue, and along Florida Avenue NW to U Street.

The meeting, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will be at St. George's Episcopal Church, 160 U St. NW.

EPA Defends Review of Lead Guidelines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going "full throttle" in its review of federal guidelines monitoring lead and copper contamination of drinking water, Benjamin Grumbles, head of the agency's water division, told a congressional committee yesterday. But Grumbles added that lead contamination in water is not a widespread national problem.

Some federal leaders, including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), said they will support legislation that would revamp federal law related to lead in the water. Norton said utilities must do much more to inform the public about risks from lead in the water than the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority did last year. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also questioned a panel of local and federal water experts, environmentalists and residents.

Grumbles said his agency is continuing to review federal rules, including how states and utilities monitor water quality in schools and day-care centers, and will have final conclusions and recommendations in the future.

Meanwhile, the EPA announced that it has given a $100,000 grant for a pilot education and testing program with the National Nursing Centers Consortium, called Lead Safe D.C. The community partnership is intended to help at-risk families eliminate lead exposure. More information can be found at the EPA's Web site, www.epa.gov/region3.

MARYLAND

Crash Kills Germantown Driver

A 45-year-old Germantown man was killed yesterday in a two-car collision in Germantown, Montgomery County police said.

They said the man was driving west on Shakespeare Boulevard about 4 p.m. when his car collided with a car going south on Observation Drive. The man, whose name was withheld until his relatives could be notified, was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from his vehicle, police said.

Death Row Inmate Appeals to Ehrlich

Maryland inmate Steven Oken, scheduled to be executed the week of June 14, has appealed to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for clemency.

Oken's attorneys asked Ehrlich to commute his death sentence to life without parole for the sexual assault and murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old college student and newlywed in Baltimore County. She was the first of three women -- two in Maryland, one in Maine -- killed by Oken in November 1987.

Ehrlich has promised to review any clemency petition that reaches his desk, but he told a caller to a WBAL radio talk show Thursday, "Quite frankly, you have a triple murderer here who did the crime."

If Ehrlich were to grant the request, that should set in motion Oken's return to Maine.

Body Found at National Cemetery

Prince George's County police are investigating the death of a man whose body was found yesterday afternoon near some woods at Washington National Cemetery, in the 4100 block of Suitland Road. The victim suffered trauma to the upper body, but police are awaiting an autopsy to determine a cause of death, authorities said.

VIRGINIA

Warner Acts on Home-School, Fetus Bills

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) signed a measure yesterday that will make it a separate crime to kill a fetus and vetoed legislation that would have loosened the qualifications parents need to home-school their children.

Warner signed the feticide legislation -- SB 319 and HB 1 -- only after saying that he was sure the law will not prohibit a woman from seeking an abortion. Last month, Warner had amended the measures, adding language that they were "not intended to affect the rights of women recognized by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade." The amendment was rejected, but Warner said yesterday he felt satisfied that the measure's language did not hamper a woman's "constitutional right" to seek an abortion.

Warner vetoed the home-schooling bill, HB 675, which would have permitted a parent without a college degree to educate children at home, without an approved program of study for teaching the child. A parent now may educate children at home if the parent has a college degree; is a certified teacher with qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education; has enrolled the children in a correspondence course approved by the state; or provides a program of study or curriculum approved by the local school superintendent. In addition, parents who have a religious exemption do not need qualification to home-school.

Warner's amendment allowing a parent without a college degree to home-school if the parent has achieved an acceptable score on a standardized test was rejected, so he vetoed the measure.

Warner signed 989 pieces of legislation this year, successfully amended 38 and vetoed seven.

"I wonder what the soldiers at Fort Bragg think.

'If it's okay for him to do it, why can't I?' "

-- Sgt. 1st Class Vernon Matthews, the National Guard

recruiter in Winchester, Va., on Spec. Dana Jensen's refusal to go

with his battalion to Fort Bragg and then Iraq. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Martin Weil, Clarence Williams, Steven Ginsberg, Lindsey Layton, Debbi Wilgoren, David Nakamura, Susan Levine, Matthew Mosk and Chris L. Jenkins.