Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Gusty winds and roaring thunder did not keep people away from the National Memorial Day Concert on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday night, or the Memorial Day parade in Rockville yesterday, or from visiting monuments and cemeteries as area residents remembered those who have died in battle.

In the District, the spirit of the holiday included a wreath-laying ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial and story sharing at the Women in Vietnam Memorial on the Mall.

In Springfield, a wreath-laying ceremony took place and candles were lit in memory of VFW members who have died.

Three Maryland sailors who were killed in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen were the centerpieces of a tribute in Baltimore County.

The names of Joshua Parlett of Churchville, Patrick Roy of Keedysville and Craig Wibberley of Williamsport were inscribed on the Circle of the Immortals at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

Memorial Day dates back to 1868 when it was first set aside as a special day for decorating wreaths, crosses and bouquets to be left on the graves of war veterans. In those days, it was called Decoration Day.

The federal government changed the name in 1971 when it recognized the day as a national holiday.

For some, the weekend that is the traditional start of summer was stormy, as several thunderstorms blew through the Washington area, topped off by a tornado that touched down in Olney.

For others, there was thunder of another kind, the thousands of motorcyclists on their way to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Many of the cyclists were Vietnam vets participating in the 14th annual Memorial Day Weekend Rolling Thunder Motorcycle POW/MIA Demonstration.

But it was the weather that rolled into Olney, where a powerful tornado hit Sunday night, part of what the National Weather Service calls routine for this time of year.

“We saw the usual incidents — roof damage, siding torn off homes, and chimneys collapsed, as well as some trees down,” Parks Camp of the National Weather Service said.

“We use a scale for tornadoes called the F-Scale, that goes from F0 to F5, and the one in Olney was an F1,” Mr. Camp said. An F1 tornado is classified as having wind gusts from 75 mph to 112 mph, he said.

During the severe-weather season for this area, which will calm in the summer, “an F1 touchdown, although infrequent, is not rare, nor is the damage associated with it,” Mr. Camp said. The Olney Cinema had a large section of its roof sheared off by the wind.

There were a number of power outages around the region, but most residents had their power restored by early yesterday morning. Potomac Electric Power Co. spokesman Charles Taylor said 227 residences in Montgomery County had no power as late as 5:45 p.m. yesterday.

There were 4,100 outages over the weekend in the Baltimore area, said representatives of Baltimore Gas and Electric, but everyone was back on by 1 a.m. Sunday. There were no reported power outages in Northern Virginia.

Severe weather is not the only thing becoming an annual Memorial Day weekend occurrence in the area. In recent years, end occurrence in the area. In recent years,,tragic crimes and strange manhunts have become as much a part of the holiday´s tradition as shedding tears at the Vietnam War Memorial.

For instance, this time last year the manhunt was still on for the killer of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett of Alexandria, victim of a random knife attack in his great-grandparents´ front yard on April 19, 2000. Gregory Devon Murphy was eventually arrested and charged with the killing; he is still awaiting trial.

This year, the search is still on for Chandra Ann Levy, a 24-year-old former Bureau of Prisons intern from California who vanished late last month.

Police found her bags packed, and her purse, credit cards and money in her Dupont Circle apartment.

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