Marylanders spring outdoors as Feb. thaw sets temperature record


Even though a friend turned down an invitation to picnic outdoors and she had homework to finish, Melanie Parr could not resist yesterday's inviting sunshine and record-breaking warm temperatures.

So the 17-year-old grabbed her physics and calculus books and headed for her favorite spot at "The Lakes" in Homeland.

There she sat, on a weathered gray bench in the shade of a holly tree, finishing her homework to the sounds of barking dogs and squeaky baby strollers.

"I hear the kids running around. Usually I mind, but today I don't," she said, her pink-sneakered feet tucked under her.

Across the state, it was the kind of day to sit beside a lake in a white cotton sweater, to do yard work, to get an early start on the softball season, to ride bare-armed in the back of a mud-splattered truck, to hang laundry out to dry or to cruise the streets in a red convertible.

Just after 3 p.m., the temperature in Baltimore soared to 67 degrees, breaking the city record for the date of 66, which had stood since 1932.

Bill Miller, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the record-breaking temperatures should linger in the area through Tuesday because of a warm front from the Pacific Ocean that has pushed the cold air north into Canada.

By Wednesday, he said, clouds will move into the region and temperatures will be dropping back to normal for early February -- afternoon highs of about 42 degrees -- with a chance of rain by Thursday.

But weather forecasts even a day ahead, or thoughts about how many snow days might remain in area school schedules, were far from anyone's mind yesterday.

At parks, ports and beaches across Maryland, people just wanted to bask in the sunshine.

"It's weird," said Highlandtown businessman John L. Sullivan, who strolled alone through Patterson Park for five hours. "I haven't experienced too much of this type of weather this time of year. It's beautiful. I love it."

Ken Borst, a Little League baseball coach, held an impromptu spring-training session for his son and several other youngsters.

"I love it," said Mr. Borst, who pitched batting practice to his young charges for about an hour. "When the season starts, they'll be ready.

Todd Weinstein spent part of the afternoon behind the wheel of his fire-engine red 1990 Chrysler LeBaron convertible.

"It's a little chilly for convertible weather," said the 16-year-old Pikesville Senior High student, who was on his way to the local library. "It could be warmer, but it's beautiful."

Many others took advantage of the spring-like day to have their cars washed.

By 2 p.m., more than 450 vehicles had gone through the Sparkle Car Wash in the 6100 block of Reisterstown Road, and owner Alan Bernstein was predicting an extremely profitable day.

"In December we had all that snow," Mr. Bernstein said. "It was followed by a torrential downpour, and weekend weather hasn't been conducive to car washing since."

The warm weather also brought an unexpected surge in business along the Boardwalk in Ocean City.

"People were coming down without reservations this weekend, and we were turning them away," said Brian Rupert, who works " at the Dunes Manor Hotel, which usually is booked with conferences.

"It's been like a September day out there," said Angie Toncic, a waitress at the Purple Moose Saloon on the Boardwalk. "It's pretty packed in here."

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