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A SURPRISE APPEARANCE Sunshine breaks run of dark skies


The sun came out yesterday.

That alone is news in Baltimore in August of 1992.

Fierce and white above a humid haze, the sun showed the fullness of its face yesterday for the first time in six days.

"All that cloudy weather was getting boring," said Willie V. Griffin, taking a stroll along the docks near the Hanover Street Bridge. "It makes you feel tired -- can't do the things you want to do."

The cloudy weather -- and the rain that accompanied it in drizzles, drops and sometimes buckets -- has had oppressive August masquerading as mousy March.

"Six solid days without sun," said Fred A. Davis, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "And in the last five days, it never got warmer than 77 degrees."

One day -- Saturday -- the mercury never rose above 67 degrees.

In that time, Mr. Davis said that 1.39 inches of rain fell at the airport, 2.23 inches came down in Annapolis, and parts of the Eastern Shore -- Salisbury and Easton -- got more than 6.5 inches.

Some folks liked it that way.

"That cool air was all right for me," said Hilda Green, 67, dipping big Jimmy blue crabs with her family from a pier in Middle Branch Park on the Patapsco. "And I like to sit and watch the rain."

Some folks didn't.

A Columbia homeowner was dismayed to discover that the mildew in her ever-dampening garage had claimed the family ping-pong table, one of her son's basketballs and a large box of Christmas decorations collected over three generations.

And some people have lived through enough summers not to be surprised by much.

"I've seen it rain longer than that," said George Norfolk, a Solomons Island oysterman. At age 87, Mr. Norfolk said he accepts just about anything that falls from the sky: "Old enough to be used to it."

Yesterday, he passed the afternoon in a ribbon of shade next to the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Light Street. It was the first day in almost a week that anyone had seen shade around town.

"Seems like the days are longer when it rains," said Elsie Rutherford, 34, sitting on a set of steps on Hanover Street. "If it rains, it rains; if it don't, it don't."

Said Andrew Johnson as he crabbed from the bridge a mile down the road from Ms. Rutherford: "It's strange weather."

For gardeners, the mysteries of August are a blessing and a curse.

"My garden needs rain," said Willie Griffin. "But it needs sun, too."

The long, wet days have extended the planting season and made weeding easier, said Rosemary Easley of Garland's Garden Center in Catonsville.

But it also brings out more slugs, earwigs and other yucky pests that feed on plants. Fungi become a greater risk over long periods of moist weather.

Cold damp nights, Ms. Easley said, cause tomato plants to abort their buds. And the plants aren't pollinated as much. "Bees don't PTC work in the rain," she said. There's a 30 percent chance they won't work again tomorrow.

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