Tara Sweeney wore sandals yesterday.

With frost in the fields and ice in the birdbath, and other people hunting for gloves and muttering about the advent of winter, Sweeney donned her Tevas and rejoiced.

Here, at last, was weather to clear the soul and cleanse the mind, weather to ease the memory of the summer's heat, weather that reminded her, a little, of home.

Sweeney, 32, now of Chevy Chase, is a native of Barrow, Alaska.

There, the sun rose about 12:40 p.m. yesterday and set an hour later.

The next sunrise will be in about 10 weeks.

In Barrow, the nation's northernmost metropolis, it was 11 below zero at 8 a.m., with a forecast high of 3 below.

For Barrow, where winter lows can dip to minus-40 -- and 70 below with windchill -- it was bracing.

Yesterday's low of 28 at Reagan National Airport and high in the 40s was, by Barrow's standards, summery.

As warmblooded Washingtonians in hoods and scarves shivered and grumbled through the coldest weather since March, Sweeney, who moved here in March only to feel tortured by the August heat, was ecstatic.

The director of government affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corp., a native Inupiat development agency, Sweeney grew up in Barrow, 340 miles above the Arctic Circle on Alaska's northern coast and the shore of the Arctic Ocean.

"It's a beautiful landscape and a vast area," she said. "Flat tundra and, compared to Washington standards, no traffic. It's extremely remote, with a vibrant and rich culture. But also the weather is extreme arctic conditions. So when people in Washington, D.C., complain about the cold, I have very little sympathy."

Brian Guyer, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's office in Sterling, said the chill of the past few days was especially shocking because it had just been so warm.

He said a high of 75 degrees was registered at National at 12:56 p.m. Wednesday, one degree below the record for the day, set in 2001.

To Sweeney's delight, the mercury then plummeted 30 degrees in the next 11 hours.

"I am wearing a sweater and Tevas," she said yesterday. "I am absolutely in heaven."

During the summer, she said, "I slow down. I'm cranky. The AC has to be on full blast. And the minute it starts to cool down, I am up earlier, I am moving a lot quicker."

With the chill, she said, "I am so happy. I am on cloud nine. I love it. I wouldn't have it any other way, if I could control the weather."

Back home, she said, the disappearance of the sun, which does not peek above the horizon again until late January, is relatively unremarkable, and it's not completely dark the whole time.

Outside at midday, "you can read a paper," Earl Finkler, the "morning man" on Barrow's KBRW radio station, said yesterday.

"It's often a time when you get closer to family and do family type of things," he said. "The pace of life slows down. There are a lot of positive-type things. And then you look forward to the return of the sun."

It's also good for astronomy.

"I'm an amateur astronomer," said Finkler, 65, a Milwaukee native who has lived in Barrow for 25 years. "I can go out right after lunch and put up my telescope."

Told about Washington's cold snap, he joked: "They didn't close the schools, did they?"

Real cold in Barrow, population about 4,500, is starting your car in the morning and leaving it running all day, Sweeney said. If you turn it off, with no way of keeping the engine warm, it might never start again.

This is an expensive fuel problem, especially in areas outside Barrow, where, because of transportation costs, gas is $6 a gallon, Sweeney said. But it's not a boon to car thieves. "Where are they going to go?" she said. "There are no roads that lead out." Besides, she said, "everyone knows everyone, and everyone's almost related."

KBRW general manager Bob Sommer, 59, said that unlike in Washington, folks in Barrow don't really fret about the weather unless it's life-threatening: "Howling winds, 60 to 70 miles an hour, blowing snow, whiteouts, that type of thing. And the temperatures are down to minus-30, minus-20.