After many days of gray skies and clouds, Friday was all blue sky and brightness in Washington, a fitting start to the 80 longest and sunniest days of the year.

On Friday, for the first time this year, the sun rose before 6 a.m. in Washington — at 5:59 a.m., to be exact. Sunrise to sunset was 14 hours and 12 minutes.

Days will continue to grow longer until June 20, the summer solstice, and then begin to become shorter again. July 30, 80 days away, will be just about as long as Friday, give or take a minute.

Meanwhile, the stretch of dark and gray days finally brought substantial rainfall to an area that has seen relatively little of it recently. On Wednesday, more than a half-inch was measured at Reagan National Airport. It was by far the wettest day this month, which so far has posted less than the normal 1.34 inches.

Wednesday was also one of the wetter days of what has been an unusually dry year. Since Jan. 1, precipitation has been about 37 percent below the normal 13.31 inches.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang said the first four months of 2012 were Maryland’s driest since record-keeping began in 1895. The state averaged 8.74 inches of rain.