CDC Drops Priority List for Flu Shots

With dozens of grocery store, pharmacy and community health clinics scheduled across the region, flu shots are now officially available to people of all ages. Yesterday was the first day that the federal guidelines giving priority to such groups as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions or other health issues were relaxed.

Although some health care providers still may be awaiting orders, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated yesterday that the country should have enough vaccine this influenza season. CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding said she expected four producers to ship about 85 million doses nationwide.

Flu vaccine is recommended, with few exceptions, for anyone older than 6 months old.

Don't Blame Hurricane Wilma for Rain

The Washington region was lashed by rain, wind and even snow in remote spots last night, brought not by Hurricane Wilma but by another weather system, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.

The Weather Service reported that the first snow of the season was falling at higher elevations in Western Maryland, while rain fell steadily in the immediate metropolitan area and gusts of up to 50 mph were expected in Ocean City.

Meteorologist Calvin Meadows said an upper-level disturbance centered over the Ohio River Valley was making its way across the region, while Wilma was out at sea and well to the south.

A Flower's Life, Fast-Forwarded

The dynamic and often unseen behaviors of everyday plants will go on display starting Thursday at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

The sLowlife exhibit is a series of films and photographs that capture the growth, movement and motions of plants that humans cannot see. The films accelerate plant life with time-lapse photography, making flowers searching for sunlight look like restless, dancing tots and roots look like fast-moving wiggle worms plowing through the earth, among other odd displays.


Public Workshops to Address Streetscaping

A series of workshops on the District's Great Streets initiative begins tonight at Raymond Elementary School, 915 Spring Rd. NW, off Georgia Avenue. Workshops will offer members of the public a chance to discuss with city officials how to spend $100 million allocated for new sidewalks, lighting, paving, trees and other aesthetic and safety improvements in five main corridors.

Tonight's workshop, from 6 to 8:30, will focus on Georgia Avenue and Seventh Street NW. A session from 6 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow at Thurgood Marshall Academy, 2427 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, will focus on King Avenue and South Capitol Street. On Thursday, city transportation planners will discuss the Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Minnesota Avenue corridor in a session at St. Francis Xavier Church, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

On Saturday, planners will consider improvements for the Nannie Helen Burroughs/Benning Road/Minnesota Avenue and H Street thoroughfares of Northeast Washington, at the Edison Friendship charter academy at 4095 Minnesota Ave. NE, from 9 a.m. to noon.

For more information, contact Karina Ricks at the D.C. Department of Transportation, 202-671-2542, or at

Graham Joins Raid of Apartment Building

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) participated in a raid yesterday of an apartment building in Adams Morgan after receiving complaints from tenants about gas odors and sewage.

Graham, armed with a search warrant and six city building and housing inspectors, watched as D.C. firefighters used sledgehammers and axes to break into 14 vacant apartments that the building's owner had padlocked. There was no sign of leaking gas, but the apartments did have peeling paint, plumbing problems and, in some units, unpermitted construction.

Graham's action came after complaints from tenants and a visit to the 27-unit apartment building last week. Graham had invited the owner, Laurence Drell, a local psychiatrist, to tour the apartment building, but he did not show up. Graham said Drell was issued more than 50 building violations.

Faulty Heater Prompts School Evacuation

An overheated fan belt on a heating unit sent smoke throughout a Northwest Washington elementary school, causing the evacuation of students and the suspension of classes for much of the day.

The fan belt overheated about 11 a.m. on the roof of Oyster Elementary School in the 2800 block of Calvert Street NW, fire officials said.

One teacher was treated at the scene for possible smoke inhalation, and one parent took her child to the hospital for treatment, fire officials said. Classes are scheduled to resume today.

City Drops Contracting Firm for Libraries

Contractors hired to redesign four D.C. branch libraries have been fired, and the city is moving toward opening four interim libraries until a new contractor can be found and the neighborhood libraries rebuilt, according to library officials.

The D.C. Public Library's board of trustees voted to terminate the build-and-design contract with Hess Construction. Hess had been under contract since April 2004 to rebuild libraries in Anacostia, Benning, Tenley-Friendship and Shaw. The city's Office of Contracting and Procurement recommended terminating the contract because the proposed design would not meet community needs and the project, which was expected to cost $25 million to $30 million, could be outdated by the time it opened, library officials said.


Bush to Speak in Norfolk on Friday

President Bush is scheduled to visit the state Friday, days before the state's gubernatorial election Nov. 8, to give a speech about the war on terrorism, according to a Republican source familiar with the event.

The source, who declined to be identified because the announcement is supposed to come from the White House, said Bush will give the speech in Norfolk in the morning.

Details of the event were still being worked out last night, the source said. A visit by Bush could help energize the Republican base for the party's candidate, Jerry W. Kilgore. But Bush's popularity has dropped even in Virginia, which helped elect him twice.

Bush has already hosted a Kilgore fundraiser in Northern Virginia, which brought in more than $2 million. First lady Laura Bush and Vice President Cheney also have held events for Kilgore.

"I want clarity. I'm the police chief, and I sat through the hearing and I'm confused."

-- D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, on the city's drunken driving law. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Susan Levine, Martin Weil, Petula Dvorak, Debbi Wilgoren, Yolanda Woodlee, Del Quentin Wilber, V. Dion Haynes and Michael D. Shear.