VIRGINIA

Man Robs Centreville Area Bank

A Centreville area bank was robbed yesterday morning by a man who suggested he had a weapon and demanded cash, Fairfax County police said.

Police said he entered the Mercantile Potomac Bank at 13826 Lee Hwy. just before 10 a.m. He fled with an undisclosed sum in a 1990s maroon Ford Explorer with Virginia temporary tags that was driven by a second man, police said.

Police described the suspect as black, 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall, with a slim build. He is bald and wore glasses.

He wore a black, yellow, white and red FUBU leather jacket, a gray hooded sweat shirt, black T-shirt, jean shorts and white Velcro sneakers.

Man Shot During Fight in Fairfax

A man was shot and wounded last night during an altercation in the Hybla Valley area of Fairfax County, county police said.

The man, 26, was shot about 9:10 p.m. in a parking lot in the 7200 block of Fordson Road, police said.

MARYLAND

Bonuses for New Prison Officers

Maryland prison officials are offering $1,000 signing bonuses to new correctional officers to try to ease staff shortages caused by turnover and unfilled vacancies at many of the state's institutions.

Mary Ann Saar, the secretary of public safety and correctional services, also is seeking to increase the relatively low wages, which start at $28,000 a year and are at the root of the problem, corrections spokesman Mark Vernarelli said Friday.

"The secretary and the governor have said several times that these people are underappreciated and underpaid," Vernarelli said. "They recognize that these folks deserve more money."

Any increase in base pay would have to be approved by the Department of Budget and Management, Vernarelli said.

About 540 correctional officer vacancies remain, said George Gregory, a spokesman for the Division of Correction, a unit of the public safety department.

Teen Wounded in Shooting

Montgomery County detectives are trying to identify a teenager who was shot in the head Thursday night in Silver Spring. Police found him about 8 p.m. in the 9200 block of Manchester Road. He remained in critical condition yesterday.

Police said he is black, between 14 and 18, 5 feet 7 inches tall and about 150 pounds. He has short braids, a light mustache and a scar near his right knee. He was wearing black Nike boots, Old Navy jeans, basketball shorts and a Dickies brand jacket. Anyone with information can call police at 240-773-5070.

Asbestos Verdict Reversed

Maryland's second-highest court has reversed a $3 million jury verdict won by a former paper mill worker who alleged that his lung cancer stemmed from asbestos exposure at a Western Maryland plant.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled last week that defendant Scapa Dryer Fabrics Inc., a Connecticut-based unit of Britain's Scapa Group PLC, should have been granted a motion to delay the 2003 trial to prepare its defense. The case was remanded to Baltimore City Circuit Court for a new trial.

Scapa manufactured dryer felts -- fabric attached to the conveyor belts of machines -- that Carl Saville cleaned and maintained at the former Westvaco paper mill in Luke from 1964 to 1978.

Eastern Shore Warned of Sprawl

The Eastern Shore's rural flavor will vanish within five years without strong slow-growth policies, a group of planning officials was told last week.

"If we stay on the current path, the Eastern Shore as we know it won't exist," Rob Etgen, of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, said at the organization's annual land planning conference.

But sprawl opponents also saw reason for hope, with more public officials attending and vowing to stand up to development pressures.

With the state due to receive thousands of military jobs over the next few years and a third Chesapeake Bay bridge being considered, the Shore is looking at the possibility of rapid growth.

THE REGION

Cancer Race May Disrupt Traffic

A four-mile race will be held this morning in parts of East Potomac Park and West Potomac Park, and it is likely to affect traffic there.

The race, which will begin at 8 a.m., will be run on a two-mile stretch of Ohio Drive SW along the Potomac River and across the Tidal Basin inlet bridge. It is designed to raise money for lung cancer research.

"The conventional wisdom was always the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after were the busiest travel days of the year for airlines. You say that enough times, and people start wondering why they're traveling those days."

-- Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Dulles International and Reagan National airports, on the trend toward week-long vacations at Thanksgiving. -- C1

Compiled by staff writers Maria Glod, Martin Weil and Ernesto Londono and the Associated Press.