Basking in January's brief warmth

After hitting 68 degrees at BWI, temperatures expected back in 40s

January 04, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Everyone knew it was too good to last.

Temperatures today should surpass 60 for the third straight day, but forecasters say a cold front, preceded by rain in the afternoon, will send temperatures back into the 40s for the rest of the week.

The respite yesterday led people to replace parkas with shorts and T-shirts.

Temperatures reached 68 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The previous record high for the date was 67, set in 1997. It was 66 at the Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor. Temperatures were in the low 70s in Southern Maryland.

The temperature Sunday at the airport also was 68, a tie for the record set in 1985.

"Typically in January, we get temperatures in the 50s or close to 60 but seeing temperatures close to 70 is very unusual," said John Margraf, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "Personally, I would not call it a January thaw because there is not snow on the ground. I don't know how to characterize it."

The East Coast's warm spell is caused by warm, moist air flowing from the Gulf of Mexico, Margraf said.

"The skyline of downtown looks like the skyline you see in the summer," said Dr. Michael Fingerhood, from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center on Eastern Avenue, as he looked from his office toward what normally would be a clear winter view. "It looks like a smoggy horizon."

The unseasonable warmth brought mixed reactions from Maryland residents and businesses that had to balance the sun's soothing rays with a loss in revenue.

Mandy Witscherkowsky, spending her first winter in Baltimore from her native Germany, marveled at the budding trees as she baby-sat a 2-year-old girl in Wyman Park.

"This is nice," said the coatless nanny. "In Germany, it's colder. It might get this warm sometimes -- in the spring."

Witscherkowsky and others said yesterday that the last thing on their minds was shopping for winter coats or hats -- bad news for some retailers.

Andrew Rose, manager of Eastern Mountain Sports in Towson Town Center, said sales of hats, gloves and scarfs have slowed dramatically this week.

"Folks usually wait until they see a cold winter before they go out and buy their gloves and hats," Rose said, noting cold-weather goods are marked down by as much as 50 percent.

Tracy Carlaton, a spokeswoman for Western Maryland's Wisp Ski Resort in Oakland, said skiers did not need jackets yesterday as they skied in 50-degree temperatures on a mix of real and artificial snow.

"I did not see anyone in shorts," Carlaton said. "But business is booming."

Business also was good at Baskin-Robbins ice cream store on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. "It's very strange, it's Jan. 3 and it really should not be warm," said worker Anna Craft.

For some people, yesterday's warmth was so unusual they did not believe meteorological explanations.

"Two patients were suspicious of the warm weather, thinking it was a New Year's plot that dealt with satellites and Y2K" bugs, Fingerhood said.

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