Woe to the kingdom of plants and all of the rain-dependent farmers, lawn lovers and back-yard gardeners whose spirits are cued to a pea patch or a row of tomatoes.

The parched ground of the Washington area has yet to crack into dust bowls, but rain has not fallen on metropolitan roofs for 10 straight days, and this June is shaping up as the driest since 1964.

"Dry spell is a better word," said Richard Crouthamel, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, which is predicting a chance of showers Sunday or Monday. "'drought' scares little old ladies with gardens who think it's never going to rain again."

So far this June, only 1.36 inches of rain has fallen, more than a third of which came in a deluge June 6. The normal accumulation in June is 3.48 inches.

Meanwhile, yesterday was extremely hot. At 4:37 p.m., the official measuring station at National Airport recorded a high temperature of 98 degrees, which matched the record for the date set in 1952.

"Ever since the 22nd of May, we've not had a significant rainfall," said Weather Service forecaster Jeffery Bowman. "Low-pressure systems developing out of the Rocky Mountains are moving well to the north and west of us."

With the vagaries of the atmosphere have come earthly misfortunes as suburban lawns shade into brown and back-yard lettuce crops "bolt" -- prematurely go to seed.

"We're having some problems with the vegetables in the area," said Brian Hinds of the Montgomery Agriculture Extension Service. "I've had six calls this morning."

Although some corn crops in St. Mary's and Calvert counties are starting to brown at the tips, commercial farmers have so far been tided over by well-above-normal rains in March.

"We've had a very good year so far," said Barbara Stanley, who is tending 1,000 acres of corn in Gaithersburg. "But if it [the dry spell] continues, it will be a rather dismal story. It will cut our yield in half."

The Potomac River, which supplies 323 million gallons of water a day to metropolitan area faucets, has declined from a flow of 8.3 billion gallons a day June 3 to 2.3 billion gallons a day -- half of the June average -- but still an ample rate for the demand.

"I don't want to start scaring people by any means," said Frank Forester of the United States Geological Service which monitors the river. f"Hydrologically, we've been drier before. It's been a hell of a dry period but you have to have a longer [dry spell] to start seeing a threat to your water supply."

In Fairfax City, residents had the misfortune to suffer a break in a pipeline and a power failure at the water treatment plant, in conjunction with the lack of rain. Lawn-watering, car-washing and swimming-pool filling have been banned at least until Monday.

"There might be an indirect connection between the dry spell and the high temperature," said one forecaster, "but it would take a team of meterologists a couple of intensive days to figure it out."

Meanwhile, if no rain falls, trees that leafed out lush canopies in the plentiful precipitation of March, may start dropping leaves.

"If you go to 'Ag' college to learn how to grow things scientifically," said Barbara Stanley, "you tend to steer away from rain dances."