Wes Potter, a former meteorologist from Wisconsin and now manager of The Shops at National Place, was talking about how panicky Washingtonians get around snow when Greg Schwartz rushed up to him.

"The roof collapsed," Schwartz said. "I guess the weight of the snow made the roof of my barn collapse."

With that, Schwartz was on his way back to his farm in Laurel, in hopes of freeing his Arabian and appaloosa horses from their barn.

As Schwartz hurriedly locked up his Ansonia Shoes shop in the downtown mall, he shook his head: "I got out on the streets, no problem. I got on the Metro, no problem. Now, I get a call, big problem."

Yesterday, residents from Maryland, Virginia and the District seemed to be of two minds. Those such as Potter thought 10 inches of snow wasn't enough to talk about. Others, such as Schwartz, found it brought more than its weight in woe.

Although Potomac Mills in Prince William County and Mazza Gallerie in the District closed, Potter was determined to keep his mall open.

"If I live 50 miles from here and get here on time, I think we can open," said Potter, who manages the 85 specialty stores and restaurants near the Treasury Department.

"I'm amazed at how people just abandon their cars, a little bit of snow and they panic behind the wheel," he said. "I think the city essentially has a little bit of a southern outlook. If they dealt with it regularly, they wouldn't have such fear and concern."

Marci Sussman, 20, was one of the concerned. Scheduled for cancer tests at George Washington University Hospital at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, she didn't want any delays. So she stayed overnight with a friend at the university dormitory. "It's always a little nerve-wracking going in," she said. "I didn't need the hassle of having to get there."

By afternoon, the Potomac resident learned that the tests showed no cancerous growths. It was then, Sussman said, that she could celebrate the snow day with her friend Andrea Shewchuk. "We've got three hours to shop and then we might go to the museums. We've already had a two-hour lunch."

All around the region, people enjoyed their third work-free Friday in a row; most calling the unexpected three-day weekend the best thing in 1988 so far.

For those who wanted to stay home, videos and pizza were the answer.

"It's outrageous," said Lisa McKinney, assistant manager of Erol's Video Club Inc., in Chantilly. "There are 75 to 100 people in here and it's been like this all day."

"Whenever it snows, people start calling in," a Domino's Pizza spokesman said. Domino's, which says it will reduce the price of pizza if it is not delivered when promised, was having to reduce prices on about 3 percent of its deliveries, up from about 1 percent normally.

In the normally bustling Old Town Alexandria historic district, people could find a parking space.

Many of the cafes and shops along King Street did not open. And some of those that did, such as Gilpin House Books and Gifts, had a competitive edge: a fireplace.

"We've had a great day," said Andrea Bertolini, the store's book buyer. "We built a fire. And a lot of people have come in to get something, because everyone wants to stay inside and read."

At the Kitchen Bazaar at Montgomery Mall, comedian Dom DeLuise showed up as scheduled to autograph copies of his new cookbook, "Eat This . . . It'll Make You Feel Better."

His late-morning arrival brought a steady stream of customers into the store on a day when an unexpected day off made them feel better all ready.

On Annapolis Road in Lanham, J.D. Hodge stood at the doorway of Bill's Hardware waiting for customers.

Outside, leaning against the store were 15 styles of snow shovels ranging from $4.50 for the kiddie's model to the $38 steel coal shovel. Shovels aside, the best sellers of the day were the bright orange sleds, for $7.90. There were three dozen Thursday morning, but only three yesterday afternoon. "It was a busy morning. They came in spurts," said Hodge.

Patricia McGrath sat in the lobby of the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel, thinking she would never have asked for a snowstorm for her birthday. Now that she got one, she couldn't believe her good luck.

"There was nobody on the road; we made record time," said McGrath, a Charlottesville resident who drove Rte. 29 and I-66 to Washington yesterday afternoon to celebrate her birthday with her husband. "This is great. Nobody is out. We'll have a nice quiet weekend in D.C."

The way Robert P. Carr saw things, all this fuss was much ado about nothing.

A vice president with the Greater Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, Carr said in a telephone interview that people in his city were "having a great time watching TV news and seeing all the snow in Washington, Atlanta and Arizona. We don't have any snow here; there's been sunshine today."

How much snow did you get, Carr wanted to know.

Less than 10 inches, he was told.

"What! That's a dusting! It takes a lot more than that to close down Buffalo."

Carr did admit, though, that the sunshine was causing a different set of problems for Buffalo. "We have a Winterfest going on {and} we're supposed to have ice skating, snow sculpture, cross-country skiing on the city streets. Last week we had to import snow from Rochester; this weekend we may have to cancel the sleigh rides."

Not looking for sympathy, he said.