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D.C. Enjoys Spring-Like Weather

January 9, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It’s a typical spring day in Washington, with tourists visiting monuments and oohing and aahing at the colorful blossoms. So what’s wrong with this picture? Check the calendar.

In a city where Ronald Reagan’s January 1985 inauguration was moved inside the Capitol because of subzero temperatures, January 1998 has seen Rollerblade hockey on Pennsylvania Avenue and shirts vs. skins soccer matches on the Ellipse.

The opening of the cherry blossoms, long a Washington tradition, has begun early this year, although the National Park Service says the preview will not disrupt the big blooming that comes in late March and early April.

``There is nothing to worry about,″ said Earle Kittleman, spokesman for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service. ``It really has no effect on when they will bloom.″

Near the south gate of the White House on Friday, Jim and Jean Gallagher, in short-sleeved shirts, took pictures of the executive mansion. In town from Chicago, Jean said she had to buy a T-shirt because she didn’t expect this weather.

``This weather really is beautiful, very nice,″ said Jim, who added he was going to take advantage of the 60-degree temperatures and head over to the Lincoln Memorial.

The Gallaghers were in Washington at the right time because the National Weather Service said it expects the mild weather to end soon.

A brief rain shower and windy conditions midday on Friday are a harbinger of what is to come, said Vernon Kousky, a research meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The mild weather, which began about a week ago, is the result of a warm front that traveled up the Eastern Seaboard from the Gulf of Mexico. The warm front extended east of the Mississippi Valley and as far north as Michigan.

``It was not attributable to El Nino,″ Kousky said. ``It’s just one of those things.″

The weather has been far less enjoyable in other parts of the East. Ice has made driving hazardous over much of the Northeast. Heavy rains in parts of the Southeast spawned deadly floods.

In the capital, people gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument Friday for one last chance to take an elevator to the top, before construction closes it to visitors until late spring.

The monument will undergo repairs, beginning Monday, that will wrap its marble blocks in a web of specially designed scaffolding until the end of the century.

The interior of the monument will be closed while a new elevator, heating, cooling and ventilation systems are installed.

Soren Wormslev, 38, of Aalborg, Denmark, was sitting in the shadow of the monument enjoying the weather.

``I was in Florida last week and the weather is nicer here,″ said Wormslev, a writer visiting Washington for the first time. ``This is like Spring in Denmark.″

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