Power Returns After Storms, Tornadoes

The National Weather Service said at least three tornadoes touched down in Northern Virginia and Western Maryland on Tuesday night during fierce storms that knocked out power to thousands of customers in the Washington region and forced the closure of several schools yesterday.

The first of the tornadoes, classified in strength as an F-1 with winds ranging from 73 to 112 mph, hit Leitersburg, Md., just north of Hagerstown, at 5:30 p.m., destroying a building that was under construction.

Half an hour later, an F-zero tornado with winds between 40 and 72 mph touched down in northwest Frederick County, just a few miles from Camp David. An hour later, another F-zero tornado hit near Lovettsville in northern Loudoun County.

By yesterday morning, power had been restored to all but 170 customers, most of them in Bethesda, Falls Church and Arlington, where two schools -- Abingdon Elementary and Barcroft Elementary -- did not open for classes. By evening, power had been restored at those schools and virtually everywhere else. Both schools planned to be open today.

Prince William County officials got word at 6 a.m. yesterday that parts of Hylton High School, one of the county's largest schools, was without power -- assumed to be a result of the storm -- and dismissed students at 9:30 a.m. to shut down power to the entire school and run tests. Power was restored at 3 p.m.

Zoo Euthanizes Sick Tapir

The National Zoo has euthanized a Malayan tapir believed to be suffering from kidney disease.

The animal, a 19-year-old female that had been at the zoo since 1986, was euthanized Tuesday after months of treatment, the zoo said. The exact cause of its ailment will not be confirmed until the pathology report is completed.

Malayan tapirs, related to rhinoceroses, weigh about 600 pounds. They can live up to 30 years in captivity.

Bolling Team Gets Called Up

A T-ball team from Bolling Air Force Base in Southwest Washington is headed to the White House.

Little League officials announced yesterday that the team has been selected to play on the South Lawn on June 13 in one of President Bush's periodic T-ball games for children.

The Cardinals, about 10 players ages 5 to 7, are the children of Air Force and Navy personnel and Department of Defense civilians. They will square off against a 15-player squad from the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in Havelock, N.C. The Air Force vs. Marines matchup -- there will be no score and it will last one inning -- will be followed by a picnic for players and their families.

The game is the second to feature teams made up largely of the children of military personnel. "This is Little League's, this is the White House's very small way of saying thank you," said Little League spokesman Lance Van Auken.

Nine games have been held at the White House since May 2001.


Statehood Green Party Loses Candidate

D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Arturo Griffiths announced yesterday that he is abandoning his campaign for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council. A kickoff party scheduled for today at the Republic Gardens Restaurant has been canceled.

Griffiths, a longtime advocate for Hispanic communities in Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights, announced this month that he would make his second run for a council seat. But party spokesman Scott McLarty said job pressures and health concerns later prompted Griffiths to drop out.

"He realized that the amount of time he would have to devote to campaigning would be too much," McLarty said. "He was really disappointed to come to this decision. But he just stacked up the pros and cons against each other and decided this is not a good year for him to run and he should withdraw now."

McLarty said the D.C. Statehood Green Party is soliciting other candidates to run for the council. Two at-large incumbents -- Harold Brazil (D) and Carol Schwartz (R) -- are up for reelection.

Old City Office Acquires New Name

Mayor Anthony A. Williams relegated the 102-year-old Office of the Corporation Counsel to the dustbin of history yesterday, signing an executive order that renames the city's top legal officer the "attorney general for the District of Columbia."

Williams said the name change -- long sought by the lawyer in question, Robert J. Spagnoletti -- lends prestige to the office. He said it also recognizes that Spagnoletti performs many of the same duties as the attorneys general of Maryland, Virginia and other states.

Spagnoletti said the change comes "at an important time in the District's history. In an era when the District struggles for voting rights and is compelled to bring a lawsuit for the right to tax nonresidents, a simple name change for the Office of the Corporation Counsel sends a strong message to our citizens that we are, indeed, a state in practice, if not in fact."

The name change will not be accompanied by any substantive changes in the office, Williams said. Nor, he said, will it affect the District's campaign to win congressional approval for a new post: an elected district attorney, who would prosecute criminal cases currently handled by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a presidential appointee.

District residents overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal to create that post two years ago, but Congress has yet to act on the measure.

School Evacuated in Mercury Scare

Worries about possible mercury contamination forced the evacuation of a Southeast Washington school yesterday until officials determined that the scare had been a false alarm and that no one was in danger.

The concerns stemmed from five thermometers that were broken at Birney Elementary School in the 2500 block of Martin Luther King Avenue SE. School officials said that a sixth-grade student found a box of thermometers and accidentally broke some of them while trying to toss them into a trash can. Firefighters responded about 12:30 p.m., quarantined 17 students and five teachers in a classroom and then evacuated more than 500 students, faculty and staff members.

They soon discovered that the thermometers did not contain mercury but organic, nontoxic materials, fire officials said. Classes resumed about 2 p.m.

"It is a massive security effort to safeguard the visitors and dignitaries related to the World War II Memorial dedication. It is a template for the inauguration and the Fourth of July."

-- Michael A. Mason, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, on security planned for this weekend. -- Page A9

Compiled from reports by staff writers Leef Smith, Karlyn Barker, Manny Fernandez, Lori Montgomery and Del Quentin Wilber.