End of the season of our discontent


By Maryland standards, the summer of 2000 was almost the summer that wasn't.

The season featured few real scorchers - days so hot and humid that eating six snowballs in a row could be justified. And oppressively sultry nights that usually force city residents onto their marble steps were even fewer in number.

"It hasn't felt like summer at all," said John Jean, 66, of Timonium, who coordinates the tee-offs at Mount Pleasant Golf Course in Northeast Baltimore. "It's supposed to be hot."

Usually, come summer in Baltimore, it is. But this year saw only five 90-degree days in June and only one each in August and July - the second-coolest July on record.

As the season unofficially ends tomorrow, reaction to Maryland's mild, persistently rainy summer runs ... well, hot and cold.

For Paul and Trudy Stock, Ocean City beach vendors who rent umbrellas, beach chairs and body boards, it was forgettable.

"It's the worst I've had in 34 years," said Paul Stock, whose territory runs from Eighth to 15th streets along the beach. "Haven't they said it was the coolest July in 150 years or something? We lost three of four weekends in July. Even if September is good, we've already missed the pie."

But for picnickers, golfers and joggers, and especially for the air conditioning-less, this summer was nearly perfect.

"It's been so nice," said Barbara Anderson, 52, a Fort Meade security specialist sitting on her rowhouse steps near Luzerne Avenue and Madison Street. "We didn't have to worry about it being so hot you can't breathe. It was nice to be able to see the kids out playing."

If not for the pesky mosquitoes, some residents said, most days they would have guessed it was still spring.

Paul Plamann, a park ranger at Fort McHenry, said July attendance at the park where the national anthem was born, was 86,428 - up 7.3 percent from last year. "I think the weather has had [an] impact on it," he said.

Swimming pools were not a huge attraction. "Attendance was definitely down with the cool, wet spring and fall-like weather," said John Herdson, who oversees pools for the Columbia Association in Howard County.

In Ocean City, some merchants, restaurateurs and hotel managers groused that the weather meant fewer spur-of-the-moment visitors, but most indicators show little slowdown in what has been a four-year run of prosperity at Maryland's coastal resort town.

"There were some weeks when you really felt bad for people who were down for their one shot at vacation and got two or three days of rain," said Macky Stansell, who owns a bayside restaurant. "All and all for us, it hasn't been that bad for business."

City officials say 4 million visitors for the summer - the benchmark in recent years - is within reach.

The bottom line, as measured by the 3 percent room tax that funneled nearly $6 million in to the town's coffers last year, was up 8 1/2 percent in July, bringing in almost $1.9 million.

Golfers on the Mount Pleasant course in Baltimore had no complaints.

"This summer has been beautiful," said B. J. Keister, a semiretired construction contractor from Crofton, as he prepared to tee off. "It hasn't been hot, and the rain has kept the greens soft."

Added another golfer, Ron Bane, a retired engineer from Mount Washington, "I can't remember a better summer."

Sun staff writer Chris Guy contributed to this article.

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