Ocean City vacationers breathe sigh of relief with Dennis a washout; Sun shines on beaches, but winds cause outages


OCEAN CITY -- Despite the dire weather predictions, Tropical Storm Dennis seemed to do little to dampen the enthusiasm of the beach crowd that flocked here for the Labor Day holiday weekend.

After a dreary, drizzly morning, the clouds broke yesterday and there was -- yes -- sun.

"We were coming whether it was going to be ugly or not," said Robin Griffith of Hollidaysburg, Pa., after shooing away a sea gull that was munching from a bag of potato chips on her beach towel.

"We got up this morning, and it was kind of gloomy," she said. "We were headed for the boardwalk, but then we saw the sun. Change of plan!"

But it was not quite the picture-perfect weekend.

Though Dennis was downgraded yesterday afternoon, winds were gusty, the surf was rough and choppy, and sporadic power outages were reported. "The Beach Band Blowout" concert had to be moved off the beach.

And then, there was the day-old doughnut problem.

Dennis' high winds apparently prevented two truckloads of freshly baked Krispy Kreme doughnuts from making it across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Ocean City from Virginia Beach, Va. The shipment of 1,386 doughnuts bound for the Wine Rack, at Coastal Highway and 85th St., never arrived.

"They usually line up for them on the weekends," said manager Paul Wilson, who was selling the previous day's shipment to disappointed customers at half price. "There's nothing we can do."

Some sun-worshipers put a positive spin on the gusts of wind, saying it made the usually hot beach more pleasant. And after a week of swimming prohibitions, the Ocean City Beach Patrol allowed swimmers in the water until 5 p.m. for the second day in a row.

"If it was 85 or 90 and sunny, no question there would be a lot more people in town," said Mayor James N. Mathias. "By no means was it a bust. People were on the boardwalk and enjoying their french fries."

At Maui Golf, which on Saturday reported a 30 percent drop in business compared to last year's Labor Day weekend, there was a good flow of customers yesterday.

"The sun is shining but it's breezy for swimming," said manager Mary Lou Brinson. "So they're finding other things to do."

Beach erosion also was not as serious as expected.

Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said that at the narrowest points of the beach, water was not reaching the dunes.

"Somehow people have been talking about moderate beach erosion in Ocean City, but I haven't seen any of it," he said.

A four-day concert series, "The Beach Band Blowout" -- planned as the town's weekend centerpiece -- was moved off the beach and into the Convention Center because of the threat of bad weather.

Attendance for the event was low Friday, but picked up Saturday. The series is to be highlighted this afternoon with a performance by the Beach Boys.

The lack of rain from Dennis turned out to be a problem.

High winds blew salt onto power lines.

But without a hard rain to wash it off, the salt accumulated, causing sporadic power outages.

Businesses on the boardwalk and along Coastal Highway were forced to close for several hours, and Ocean City Airport was without primary power and operated on a generator for much of yesterday. Authorities reported no injuries or major damage from the storm.

Emergency personnel accustomed to being kept busy by bad weather found that the break yesterday allowed the time to distracted

Pub Date: 9/06/99

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