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Strange Weather Patterns Affect Boaters, Bugs and Tomatoes

August 2, 1996

George Mueller lounged dejectedly outside his bait and tackle shop on New York’s Long Island Sound, chucking peanuts at squirrels and mourning the summer that never was.

Before him stretched misty Mamaroneck harbor, normally teeming with pleasure boats, fishermen and business during the town’s busy summer season. This year, just one lone boater and a flock of seagulls welcomed the first day of August at 8 a.m. Thursday.

``Worst season in seven years,″ muttered Mueller, who runs a boat rental, bait and tackle shop.

Down on the dock, Gene Fedele was a bit more cheerful about the eerie harbor calm.

``They say weather like this is good for bluefish,″ Fedele said as he clambered into his 20-foot power boat, Old Faithful. ``But it sure is weird for August.″

Weird is how weather folks are describing this summer too. And not just in New York, which hasn’t had a 90-degree day since May.

In Monroe, Wis., nippy nighttime temps have parents wearing blankets to Little League games.

At Lackawanna State Park in Dalton, Pa., campers are ``smelling fall″ and heading for the hills, according to one worker.

Meanwhile, California is steamier than usual. Connecticut has more bugs than usual. And New Jersey tomatoes are feeling the chill. They’re still dark green.

Blame it all on a stubborn trough over the Great Lakes. Until it budges _ most likely sometime next week _ the national meteorological seesaw that has caused the West Coast to sizzle while the East Coast shivers will probably remain. The trough is part of the same weather pattern that walloped much of the country with snowstorms last winter and failed to produce a normal spring.

``Until it retreats back to southern Canada where it belongs, we won’t get the Bermuda high we normally have,″ said Richard Tinker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Temperatures from the central states to the mid-Atlantic are just 3 to 8 degrees below normal, Tinker said. But the rainfall _ boosted by Hurricane Bertha _ has been much higher.

In Philadelphia 13.28 inches fell in June and July, compared with an average of 8.85. Oklahoma City got 14.01 inches compared with its usual 6.82. And New York’s Kennedy Airport measured 9.89 inches of rain compared with an average of 7.42.

In Monroe, a town of 10,000 in southern Wisconsin, basements were flooded this summer for the first time in memory. And the only swimmers in local pools have been Irish kids whose parents work in the local dairy plant.

``They tease us, but the water is much too cold for the natives,″ quipped Sharon Green, who talks enviously about relatives in Phoenix ``dying of the heat.″

No such luck at Lackawanna State Park in Dalton, Pa., where Jean Accardi pondered the irony of this summer’s chill.

``Last year the problem was drought,″ said Accardi, who runs a camper store by the Lackawanna lake. ``The lake got so low, boaters stayed away. This year, it’s the rain that’s killing us.″

It’s also bothering tomato plants in Holmdel, N.J., where D.J. Luccarelli is keeping his fingers crossed for next week’s promised heat.

``The corn doesn’t like it either,″ said Luccarelli, produce manager for Dearborn Farms, which is still buying tomatoes and corn from outside suppliers. Normally, at this time of the year, the store is selling its own produce.

In Connecticut, it’s bugs that are causing problems _ and killing backyard barbecues. The mild, wet summer has created perfect breeding grounds for generations of mosquitoes and biting midges, a tiny, hard-to-spot fly with a nasty habit of flying through screens for surprise attacks. Usually they die off in spring.

``Biting midges need lots of moisture to develop, so they’re having a very good year,″ said Theodore Andreadis of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. ``I don’t ever remember them being such a problem.″

On the other hand, the cool weather is a blessing for Northeast Utilities, which provides power for much of Connecticut. For safety reasons, the company has been forced to close its four nuclear power plants, which could cause major problems if there is a surge in demand.

That could be as early as next week.

``August 5,″ predicted Mel Goldstein, director of the weather center at Western Connecticut State University. ``That is when we will see those lazy, hazy days of summer again.″

As the warmer winds move east, parts of the West Coast will probably settle into a more comfortable summer norm. Temperatures in Sacramento, Calif., which hit a record of 106 last Sunday, have already dropped several degrees.

``It’s almost too hot for people to come out and buy ice cream,″ said Tony Vice, manager of Vic’s Ice Cream in downtown Sacramento. ``But it’s better than being East.″

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