Into region's life, some rain

April: Precipitation is already past the normal monthly total, with a dampening effect on business.

April 14, 2004|By Tom Dunkel | Tom Dunkel,SUN STAFF

Sometime next week, 5 tons of sand will be delivered to the Bay Cafe in Canton to replace what was washed away last summer by Tropical Storm Isabel. But all's still not well at the beach-themed bar.

Call it the spritz that just won't quit: a merciless spell of spin-cycle clouds, rain and London-like temperatures. Weather, in other words, made for umbrellas, not umbrella drinks.

"Kills us" is how bartender Matt Cairns describes the water-torture effect on business.

For those keeping score, April has delivered one officially clear day, according to the National Weather Service. Baltimore already is well above its expected 3 inches of precipitation for the month. Seems there's a broken water main in the sky.

As cheery reggae music plays in the background at the Bay Cafe, dreary rain keeps pelting the canvas awning that covers the deck outside. The pit-a-pat drops make a sound reminiscent of fingers drumming impatiently on a tabletop: When's spring gonna come? ... When's spring gonna come?

"I don't like this weather too much," Cairns says.

No wonder. He has only a half-dozen customers. Normally - meaning before the city and everyone in it got waterlogged - 30 people huddle around the bar even on a slow night.

For some, however, even these clouds have silver linings. "I hate hot, so this is fun for me," declares Adam Houtz, who is nursing a whiskey and who journeyed all the way to Bay Cafe from his apartment building next door.

Instead of sitting on a bar stool, Houtz should be sweating up a storm at his neighborhood health club. Problem is his wife didn't feel like walking there in a downpour. So she stayed home, and he ducked out for a drink.

Going with the flow, smooth and regret-free, is a good coping strategy for this kind of under-achieving weather. E.E. Cummings once wrote a poem extolling spring as "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful."

"I'm seeing many people who feel real feelings of depression, lethargy, difficulty getting their work done," says Norman E. Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and author of Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder. "When the weather has an extended bad run like this, it definitely slows people down and gets them down."

Rosenthal, who admits to getting the rainy-day blues himself, says it can help to sit in front of specially developed light boxes that mimic sunlight or take refuge in a bright-colored room or exercise regularly.

Then, too, there's always that popular home remedy: Complain about the rotten weather until the sun shines again.

Diane Pazourek, a sales associate at Princeton Sports & Travel on Falls Road, is "sick" of the drip, drip, dripping: "Ski season is over. I'm ready to start biking. It's just stinky: When we were trying to do Easter dinner, it felt more like Thanksgiving or Christmas."

"Everybody's talking about it," says Janine Germano, owner of the Florida Room tanning salon on West Cold Spring Lane. "It's gotten to the point where people are beyond tired of it. They're almost giddy."

One customer, Therese Keane, a sophomore marketing major at Loyola College, stopped by for an invigorating shot of artificial sunlight and didn't seem at all perturbed by the absence of the real thing.

"Eventually May will come," she says, "and we'll be rewarded. I actually like it when it rains."

Lynnie Cook is executive director of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation, the not-for-profit company that operates the city's public courses. He keeps a close eye on meteorological patterns and says we've been stuck in a weird weather window since October 2002 - record snowfalls and rains, droughts, vicious summer storms. Golf course use was down 20 percent last year, so this damp spring continues what last year started.

"It's the longest streak anybody can remember," says Cook. "It was the wettest year on record last year."

One can take solace in the fact there have been fewer flood warnings. Or be thankful that the pendulum hasn't swung to the other extreme: A stretch of Chilean desert supposedly didn't see a drop of rain between 1571 and 1970.

Believe it or not, rainfall in the Baltimore area is actually running about an inch below average for 2004.

Take these current clammy conditions in stride, advises Alan Thomson, nursery manager at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville.

The forecast, after all, is calling for skies to clear tomorrow and sunny days at least through Monday.

Thomson's customers haven't been idle waiting for the elusive sun. "True gardeners," he notes, have been busy scratching at the soil anyway.

As they know, the weather turns as well as the worm.

Staff writers Linell Smith and Frank D. Roylance contributed to this article.

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