Tammy Stevens watched a utility pole float down her Kent Island street, carried by rising waters that had already swallowed up a backyard swingset. Members of the Spessard family watched in astonishment as part of an oak tree crashed into their Dunn Loring home, allowing rainwater to come spewing in.

Jack Gallagher abandoned the beach for balmy Monticello in Charlottesville. And Claude White, unflappable oyster shucker on Maryland's Eastern Shore, lunched on fried fish and white bread as the wind and rain swirled around him.

"It's just a storm," White said.

Part bully, part pushover, Hurricane Floyd sped across Virginia and Maryland yesterday, selectively picking fights along the way. It lived up to its frightening billing as it brushed coastal Virginia, blacking out hundreds of thousands of households, but it barely ruffled Washington and its immediate suburbs before breezing north just after midday.

The uneven treatment made for a day of uneven emotion around the region -- from relief to terror, panic to laughter.

Amid contractions, a very pregnant Sharby Shriver evacuated her home for a Virginia Beach shelter. The baby is due next week, but Shriver and husband Joe knew enough to be wary of hurricanes: A few years ago Hurricane Bonnie toppled a tree onto their house.

"I was worried that it might happen again," Shriver said. "And, no, if it's a boy, he's not going to be named Floyd."

Aboard U.S. Airways Flight 2658, Mike and Renee Frith held hands and tried to reassure each other. Their Boeing 737, about a half-hour from Baltimore Washington International Airport, dived through the swirling clouds and lashing rain, pitching and rolling along the way.

The Friths, of Orlando, retreated to shelter in Panama City on Tuesday night out of respect for Floyd. Yesterday they were headed to Cleveland for a gathering associated with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Inadvertently, they had caught up with the frightening weather north of Washington.

When the pilot planted the plane firmly on the tarmac at last, the passengers applauded and groaned with relief. "Where's that pilot," Mike Frith asked the flight attendant. "I want to kiss him."

-- Kathy Sawyer

Laurie Brookwood came home from her job at Wal-Mart to discover that her blue frame house on Shady Side in southern Anne Arundel County had become an island, surrounded by water two-feet deep. There was Chester Eastep, her boyfriend, wading through the front yard with an errant trash can and lumber.

"My swimming pool is now an acre big," Brookwood said.

-- Jefferson Morley

Many tourists who were forced to abandon their late-summer vacations at Virginia Beach and North Carolina's Outer Banks made their way to Charlottesville -- a designated evacuation point -- and tried to make the best of it. Hundreds made impromptu visits yesterday to Monticello, the hilltop home of Thomas Jefferson.

As the evacuees toured, 25 mph winds whipped through the site's towering tulip poplars, copper beeches and sycamore trees, and gray clouds scudded across the sky. But rain from the storm tapered off by midday, and the sun even peeked through at times.

"There's nothing like being on a mountaintop during a storm," said Dan Jordan, the director of Monticello.

-- William Branigin

Noah Coffman, 12, decided to go bike riding in the midst of the storm. The boy and his bike slipped into Bear Creek in Laurel, and he shot down the rapids in the four-foot-deep creek.

A worker in a nearby office complex saw him sweep by and called police. Several officers postioned themselves downstream to catch him. Noah managed to grab some weeds. Two passersby then pulled him to safety. The boy was given warm clothes, checked out at a local hospital and sent home with his worried mother.

His bike, washed downstream, was nowhere to be seen.

-- Raja Mishra

In Philomont, a rural town in western Loudoun County, a handful of volunteers and emergency medics from the local fire department drank coffee, ate cinnamon buns and chatted about the storm passing far to the east.

"We're all ready to roll," said Philomont Fire Chief Stanley Lickey, 64, as he cooked steak and cheese sandwiches for a few volunteer firefighters and a state trooper who was passing through the area. "But we ain't turned a wheel."

-- Dana Hedgpeth

disconsolate hitchhikers. "It's so baOthello Jones went fishing yesterday to pass the time while riding out Hurricane Floyd. He reeled in three nine-inch perch.

His calm belied the fact he and his wife, Mary, live on St. George's Island in St. Mary's County, a narrow two-mile-long spit of land on the Potomac River. Parts of Piney Point Road, the only route onto and off the island, were underwater.

From time to time yesterday, the Joneses would stand behind the glass storm door and remark on the whitecaps crashing on the seawall 100 feet away.

"Everybody's been calling and telling us, `You'd better get off the island!' " Mary Jones said. "I've seen it this way before, I'm not afraid."

-- Jesse Mangaliman

At a Calvert County shelter in Southern Middle School near Lusby, 80 people had checked in by late afternoon. An early morning power loss forced the school to run on auxiliary generators.

For newlyweds Walter and Cynthia Grimes, the day was a study in contrasts. The couple had just returned home from their wedding trip on Wednesday night as Hurricane Floyd closed in on the region. "We left our honeymoon to come back to this," Cynthia Grimes said yesterday as she passed the time at the shelter.

-- Nancy Trejos

The Spessard children -- Bobby Lee, 8, and Kelly Rose, 7 -- were in the family room of their Dunn Loring home when they heard a cracking sound.

They looked out the window and watched a nearby 70-foot-tall double oak tree uproot, with one of the sections coming straight for their house on Idylwood Road.

"The impact was like a huge explosion," said Ron Spessard, who came running from the other end of the house with his wife, Jamie-Ellen, to find their children scared but unharmed. "It was like a cannon going off in your house."

The tree tore a hole in their second floor. Windows shattered from the impact and falling limbs ripped off the storm gutters.

Another section of the tree fell in the opposite direction, landing on the detached garage and the children's swingset.

"The hurricane didn't hit the area as bad as we thought," Ron Spessard said. "But we got it anyway."

-- Eric L. Wee

Much of Kent Island was cast into darkness by power outages, but there were some oases of light and cheer.

The Acme Market on Route 50, whose emergency generators powered a few lights -- and the cash registers -- stayed open for business. Clerks wielding flashlights helped customers find their way through the darkened store.

Among their customers were the drivers of more than three dozen tractor-trailers stranded all day on the island because Bay Bridge operators deemed the winds raking the span too dangerous.

The fast-food restaurants such as Pizza Hut and McDonald's were closed, but the Acme was open, selling submarine sandwiches, cans of spaghetti, candles, batteries and even Halloween cakes.

"Is it open?" a trucker asked, walking up to the dark building.

"Sure, we'll give you a free flashlight," said a clerk, beckoning him in.

-- Fern Shen