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Summer makes a comeback

January 04, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

Friday's balmy 65-degree temperatures walloped a record that has been standing in Washington County for 67 years and brought weather conditions that could threaten the region's fruit crops and mar the winter's ski season.

The highest temperature for Jan. 3 in the county until Friday was 58 degrees registered in 1930, said Greg Keefer, the county's official weather observer.

"I don't know what it would have been if the sun had been out," Keefer said. It was a gray January day throughout the Tri-State region.

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Friday's low was 42.

Records were also broken in Baltimore, according to Brian Smith of the National Weather Service. The city hit a high of 67 Friday, breaking a 47-year record there by six degrees, he said.

Observers predict slightly lower temperatures today with a high of 55.

The reason for the region's mild weather stems from the jet stream that is strung out high across the continent, Smith said. It stretches from Nevada up across the Dakotas and into northern New England, keeping Arctic air in Canada. He also said a band of clouds across West Virginia and Maryland kept temperatures lower than they would have been had it been sunny Friday.

Friday's weather is a far cry from just a few days short of a year ago when the now famous "Blizzard of `96" dropped more than three feet of snow on the region beginning on Jan. 7, 1996. "It will be many days" before there is any kind of snowfall here again, Smith said. Temperatures will become more normal next week with highs in the low 40s and lows in the 25- to 30-degree range, he said.

Friday's short-sleeve temperatures were not welcomed by everyone.

Robert L. Burkhart, long time Berkeley County apple and peach grower, said while the warm weather could mean damage for the 1997 crops, it is too early to tell. "It's anybody's guess," Burkhart said.

If buds on the trees have been hardened by early cold temperatures a few days of warm weather won't do much harm, he said. "We don't know what effect this will have, but we don't like it," Burkhart said.

"We've been hoping for an Arctic blast but it doesn't seem to be coming," said Chris D'attilo, manager of Alpine Ski Rental in Clear Spring. D'attilo said his business depends on how well the nearby Whitetail Ski Resort does. "It's been a little off. I can look out my window and see the traffic patterns (to Whitetail). It's down from last year. We have to take what God gives. It averages out."

Whitetail officials could not be reached for comment.

Keith Snyder, spokesman for Antietam Battlefield Park, said Friday's nice weather failed to bring out crowds at the Civil War historic site. "It was up a little, more than usual for January, but it wasn't dramatic," he said.

Adrian Curca and five fellow employees at Rocky's New York Pizza at 907 South Potomac St. were trying to keep up with a rash of orders at suppertime Friday.

"This kind of weather is good for business," Curca said. "When it's warm like this people like to get out. They don't want to stay home and cook."

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