Clear summer skies and crisp Canadian breezes filled the first day of the Fourth of July holiday for thousands of area vacationers yesterday. The high temperatures, low humidity and refreshing gusts of wind were expected to coninue through Monday.

Traffic on the major roads leading out of the Washington area moved comparatively smoothly for the holiday weekend, police reported, which meant that it took only two to three times longer than normal to get from one place to another.

However, there were no major traffic delays or backups, just an endless crab like crawl of traffic away from Washington.

"The beach is packed down here," Nancy Phoebus reported from her post at the front desk of the Santa Maria Hotel in Ocean City. "The temperature is in the 90s, and most of the motels are all booked, we've got people in Pittsburgh, New York, New Jersey, plus the Washington area. They're all looking for sun, fun and sin," she said.

The picture postcard weather not only kept people on the beaches, it kept them off the roads, according to officer Jay Hancock of the Ocean City Police Department.

"Traffic has been moving well all day. This is nothing like Memorial Day," he said, when overcast skies and periodic rain prompted vacationers to beat a hasty retreat home, clogging roads for hours.

"It's so beautiful now I wish I were outside instead of talking to you," Hancock told a reporter.

The National Weather Service predicted a continuation of the pleasant weather, which has been temperatures in the 90s, a humidity level of about 60 per cent, and breezes often as strong as 20 miles per hour, according to forecaster Harold Hess.

"There's almost no chance of rain through Sunday night," Hess said. "The big question is, however, will we have a thunderstorm just as the fireworks start on the Fourth? And we won't know that until Sunday at the earliest. Frankly, I'm as enthusiastic as I can be."

In preparation for the long ride home at the end of the weekend, Ocean City police were busy practicing the card tricks that they hope will ease the next expected traffic jam.

"We'll be using these flip cards to advise people of alternate routes available to them if Route 50 gets too crowded," said Officer Patrick Gray. "We'll have officers stationed at the Bay Bridge, and at the intersection of Routes 50 and 404. We hope people will follow the directions."