Old-timers in Washington will remember yesterday as the 50th anniversary of a day of havoc. A hurricane had swept up the coast the previous afternoon, inundating the capital with 7 inches of rainfall and destroying boat landings and settlements along the Chesapeake Bay shores.

Washington's Benning Road bridge across the Anacostia River was under three feet of water. Hyattsville firemen rescued families from flood-stranded homes. Transit service, then provided mainly by streetcar, was all but halted. Many government workers were sent home.

Electric power faltered, and an emergency connection was made to provide it from Baltimore. Police stations in the suburbs relied upon candlelight. Annapolis and parts of Alexandria's Old Town were isolated.

Much of the storm's effect was transitory. But it had one lasting legacy. The destruction of bayside docks forced the abandonment of service by the Baltimore, Crisfield and Onancock Line, the last local steamboat service on the bay, to numerous bayside towns. The line gave up the ghost three years later.

The 7-inch rainfall a half century ago did not set a local record. The 7.31 inches that fell on Aug. 11, 1928--55 years ago this month--still stands. For most of us, the most memorable downpour was that of June 21, 1972, in which Hurricane Agnes dropped 7.19 inches on the city.