- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2000

April again proved itself to be the cruelest month switching from spring mode back to winter in a matter of hours on Saturday and then dusting some Washington-area neighborhoods with snow overnight.

And with the cold and snow came strong, gusty winds that had meteorologists talking about wind chills yesterday.

"This is spring, so it's not unusual to have this kind of weather," said Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

"We've been teased a lot by early cherry blossoms and warm sunny weather," Mr. Woodcock added. "We just have to be patient and not panic. That's the motto."

Area residents got a glimpse of each of the four seasons as temperatures dropped from 70 to 34 degrees in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

Early risers found a dusting of snow on their cars yesterday morning, a day after temperatures neared 70 Saturday morning. Less than one-tenth of an inch of snow fell, Mr. Woodcock said, but it was enough to cover the blooming tulips and azalea and zap tender blossoms on magnolias, among other botanical victims.

Mr. Woodcock said Washington normally gets little snow. Only a little more than 15 inches fell all last winter.

However, Mr. Woodcock said it's not unusual to see snow in April. The nation's capital has had snow in the first full month of spring about every other April over the past 125 years.

The last big April snow was in 1924 when 5.5 inches fell, Mr. Woodcock said. Two-tenths of an inch fell in April 1990.

Saturday's warmth began to drop by noon when wind gusts of up to 45 mph ripped through the region, blowing down a town house that was under construction in Alexandria, Va. No one was hurt.

The three-story town house was among eight under construction on Governor Crest Court, a new development near Franconia and Telegraph roads. The unit collapsed and fell forward onto the street, Fairfax County fire officials said.

The frame of the collapsed town house was up, along with some dry wall and some windows. But the windows were installed on only one side and the frame was open in the direction of the wind, officials said.

"It was quite a sight," said neighbor Cari Votava, as she surveyed the damage yesterday afternoon. "I guess it must be hard to time construction according to the weather."

Beazer Homes, which is building the three-story units, was not available for comment yesterday.

The winds were followed by heavy showers that pummeled the region Saturday night before turning to light snow by early yesterday morning.

"It was just crazy," said Sharon Dela Cruz, of Arlington, Va., who was among hundreds yesterday afternoon who ventured out for the first time since Saturday afternoon to stroll along the Mall.

The wind played a hand in the Baltimore Orioles' 11-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers yesterday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Orioles got their first two runs of the game in the bottom of the first inning when a wind-blown fly ball eluded Juan Encarnacion in center field with two on and two out and the Orioles trailing 3-0.

Fans were bundled up in ski jackets and wrapped in blankets, looking much more like a crowd at a football game. Those among the 42,178 who stayed through the end of the game studied the sky and cheered when then sun poked through the clouds, and hooted at several wind-deflected balls which dropped short in right field.

Yesterday's highs were in the low 50s but the wind chill made it feel more like the 20s.

"I guess I got very spoiled over the last week when the weather got warmer. I guess you just have to appreciate it when you do get nice weather," said Mary Bezzinni of Ellicott City as she walked with her husband, Robert, along the Potomac River in Alexandria.

"I just hope we can finally get to enjoy the warm weather again soon," Mr. Bezzinni interjected.

Spring could return to Washington as early as this afternoon, when temperatures are expected to reach the low 60s and dip only into the low 40s by nightfall.

That forecast makes John Williams Jr., 30, happy. The Burke resident planned to work on his roof and clean up his yard Saturday afternoon, two tasks he has been putting off since the weather got warm several weeks ago.

"I just thought winter was finally over," the Florida native said yesterday. "I just thought I had all spring and summer to do it. I won't take that chance again."

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