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Mid-Winter Heat Wave Keeps Outdoor Activities Cooking in Eastern U.S.

February 5, 1991

Undated (AP) _ Skiers put away parkas for sunscreen and warm-weather ″flu″ infected workplaces as a blast of hot air turned the weather calendar upside down, bringing a taste of Australia’s February climate to the eastern United States.

Warm weather records fell in at least four dozen cities Monday - from normally frigid New England out to the northern Plains and down into the Deep South - as a heat wave that began Saturday kicked into high gear.

The warmest places in the heat wave belt Monday were Baltimore, with a high of 72 degrees, and Tupelo, Miss., with 73. The hottest place in America was Palm Springs, Calif., where it was 88 degrees.

In Sydney, Australia, where it’s summertime, the high was 90.

Cloudy conditions across most of the eastern United States were expected to begin cooling things off slightly today, but not enough to bring overcoats back out of closets.

The National Weather Service said the return to February’s normally frigid temperatures would be gradual, with pleasant conditions lasting most of the week.

Meanwhile, Monday’s high of 68 at New York City’s Kennedy International Airport was not only a record for the date, it was a record for the entire month of February, topping the high of 67 set on Feb. 27, 1976.

In the Canadian border town of International Falls, Minn., which likes to call itself the ″nation’s icebox,″ it was as though someone had left the icebox door open. The temperature hit 42 and the ice melted.

″There’s a lot of water,″ said Kate Baldwin, a waitress at Barney’s Restaurant. ″My yard’s a mess. It’s like the end of March.″

But her boss, Chris Mostad, took advantage of the respite from northern Minnesota temperatures that can hit 40 below this time of year to fire up his barbecue and hold a mid-winter cookout.

″He thinks it’s spring,″ Baldwin said.

He wasn’t alone, as people from Boston to Chicago celebrated the unexpected heat wave.

″Everyone warned us about the awful, cold, windy winters in Chicago. Obviously they were wrong,″ said Arnie Feinberg, who was visiting the Windy City from West Caldwell, N.J.

″It makes coming to work on a Monday morning, which is generally lousy, a tad more pleasant,″ said Larry Testa, manager of an insurance firm in Boston, where Monday’s high of 64 shattered a 77-year-old record by eight degrees.

But not everyone went to work Monday. Pat Smith of Mays Landing, N.J., simply stopped his truck and climbed onto the hood to catch a few rays.

″I could spend all day here, and in fact I might,″ he said, laughing.

At the Hidden Valley ski resort in Vernon, N.J., skiers put aside parkas, donned shorts and slapped on sunscreen lotion before taking to the slopes.

But while many rejoiced, farmers, ice-rink operators, ski resort managers and a few others fretted that continued warm weather would hurt business.

″Farmers would be much better off if it was cold,″ said Charles Miller, a dairy and livestock associate for the New Jersey Farm Bureau. ″It affects chickens and their egg production, cows and their milk production; everything is affected by it.″

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