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A-h-h-h-h: Much of Nation Basks in Unseasonable Winter Warmth

February 4, 1991

Undated (AP) _ Temperatures returned to record highs today after reaching 72 in South Dakota, sending beachgoers in shorts to share a park with ice fishermen in Pennsylvania and letting Georgia daffodils appear one month earlier than usual.

A forecaster said the unseasonably warm weather was two months ahead of schedule.

Today, the temperature in New York City hit a record 56 at 11 a.m. and kept on rising. The previous record for the date of 54 had stood since 1883.

On Sunday, temperatures hit record highs in 42 cities in Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.

In North Dakota on Sunday, temperatures hit the low 50s, some 30 degrees higher than normal for this time of year.

″We can get this type of weather pattern occasionally, but not this strong of a pattern,″ North Dakota forecaster Larry Manthe said Sunday. ″It’s covering much of the nation.″

High pressure in the upper atmosphere, combined with westerly winds over the Rockies produced the balmy weather, Manthe said.

At Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, an estimated 20,000 people showed up to enjoy the 54-degree weather, officials said.

″We actually saw a few people in shorts,″ police Sgt. Bob Vitron said.

Park police warned ice fishermen that the record warmth could weaken ice on the lake, but no problems were reported.

″When people go out in the morning, the ice is firm,″ Vitron said. ″But as soon as the sun comes out in the afternoon, the shoreline starts to break up and people have trouble getting back in.″

″This is what you’d expect in the second week of April, we’re running two months ahead of schedule,″ said Mark Ruminski, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

The mercury rose to the mid-50s in upstate New York, and the 60s in the Hudson Valley.

In Chicago, it was 50 degrees and ″another excuse to go out and get ice cream,″ said Judith Johnson, 30. ″Maybe I’ll get a little suntan,″ said Matt Goska, 20, a sophomore at Northwestern University in nearby Evanston.

South Dakota felt like Florida. Spearfish, S.D., in the northern Black Hills reported 72 degrees.

Atlanta’s average of 44.3 degrees in January was 2.4 degrees above normal, continuing a pattern set in 1990, when the year was 4 degrees warmer than normal, meteorologists said.

Craig Allen, a horticulturist in College Park, Ga., was surprised to see daffodils popping out of the ground two weeks ago. They usually aren’t seen until the end of February.

″A customer called today and said her daffodils are already budding,″ Allen said. ″Daffodils don’t normally bloom until March.″

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