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'Eye-popping' first day of spring breaks a record

Chicago WeatherTom Skilling

It may be the first day of spring, but it's feeling more like one of the waning days of summer.

Today and Wednesday are expected to produce the highest temperatures of the March heat wave that began last Wednesday, according to WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling. At 11, it hit 77 degrees at the official recording station at  O'Hare International Airport, 1 degree above the previous record of 76 degrees set in 1921.

By 3 p.m., the temperature at O'Hare had risen to 85, and the National Weather Service issued a "red flag warning" because of strong winds and low humidity creating the conditions for "explosive fire growth."

Skilling predicted correctly that we could see a high today in the middle 80s -- "an eye-popping 35 degrees above normal."

Although it's the third-warmest March day on record in Chicago, the temperatures are believed to have reached their peak at 85 and likely won't surpass the hottest March day on record, 88 degrees on March 29, 1986, or the 87 degrees recorded on March 31, 1981, said Weather Service meteorologist Richard Castro.

But big changes loom, Skilling warned. By Thursday, the high will drop into the middle 70s under cloudy skies. On Friday, there'll be rain, maybe thunderstorms, and a high in the mid-60s, according to the National Weather Service.

The high will hover around 60 on Saturday, a 25-degree drop from what's expected today or Wednesday.

The big chill is already settling over the West. Chicago's 78-degree high on Monday blew past the temperatures reported out of Phoenix (62 degrees), Las Vegas (55), San Diego (58) and Los Angeles (57).

Today is the seventh day in a row that Chicago has set or matched record highs, according to the National Weather Service.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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