When Bea Stroud and Charlene Payne gave up trying to dig out their cars from their Addison Road apartment parking lot late yesterday afternoon, they noticed the buses.

Seven yellow school buses, straddling the road, stuck deep in snow drifts, were packed with screaming children.

"They've been out there all day, since 1 o'clock, stuck in those buses, hungry and tired, and I thought, 'They need some hot chocolate,' " Stroud said.

So Stroud and Payne corralled the children, students at Skyline Elementary School in Suitland, and marched them a quarter-mile up the road to a 7-Eleven.

"I only have a little money so I thought maybe you could help out these children -- they've been in the bus all day," Stroud told Thurnell Outlaw, the store manager.

"Bring them in and line them up," Outlaw said.

In they marched, cheering and cold.

The children, most of whom live in Maryland Park just outside the District line near East Capitol Street, said the hot chocolate was the perfect ending to a day that had been lots of fun, even if their parents had no idea where they were.

"We were playing, sliding through the aisle, and jumping over seats," said Michael Kelliebrew, a second grader at Skyline. "When we had to go to the bathroom, we just went outside in the snow."

Sherika Eaves, another second grader, said their bus driver, the only adult on the bus, "told us we should go home and sue the Board of Education for this."

While some of the buses strewn on the road between Central Avenue and Walker Mill Road already had delivered children to their homes before they became stuck, at least four of the buses still had children on board at 6 p.m.

"Finally, we had a father who came and got eight kids," said Robert Montgomery, a driver who took six children up the road to a gas station so they could go to the bathroom.

Montgomery said the bus drivers had not had any contact with school officials since they were stranded five hours earlier.

As evening approached, several neighbors coming home from work volunteered to call the parents of children stranded aboard the buses. And at 6:15 p.m., a Prince George's County snow plow arrived with the promise of a path home.

But the children were in no particular rush to get there.

"We were just hollering and screaming, being bored and hungry," said Britta Williams, a sixth grader. "The snow is a lot of fun."