Hot, humid, dusty.

The city's location: far enough inland to be shielded from strong winds yet close enough to the Bay for intolerable humidity. The perfect recipe for the greatest thunderstorms anywhere. From April through September, massive storms materialize, drench the land and light the sky then vanish after sometimes seconds, sometimes hours.

I sit today at work and watched from a fifth floor window as the sun disappears behind thick black clouds, the leaves turn up -- a telltale sign if ever there was one -- and the sky cracks forth a downpour. Water cleanses the streets and sidewalks of their sticky heat and washes it down drains stenciled "DON'T DUMP: CHESAPEAKE BAY DRAINAGE," a long forgotten warning sprayed by elementary school students whose children now apply a refresher coat.

The lightning pierces and touches down on familiar landmarks, the Belvedere, the glass-shrouded Aquarium, and the towering skyscraper where once the letters "MN" warned us of upcoming weather -- or did they?

The rain pauses and the sun peeks through, leaving a greenish cast over the quenched landscape. Thunder rolls, farther away this time -- as if the distant cannons on Federal Hill have sprung back to life.

Still humid, less dusty.

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