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Warmy, windy weather 'wacko'

February 28, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Maybe there is something to that groundhog thing. Hagerstown just missed reaching a new all-time high temperature for February on Thursday when the mercury climbed to 81 degrees, according to weather observer Greg Keefer.

The balmy winter weather did set a record by exceeding the previous high for Feb. 27. Until Thursday, the record high for that date was 67 degrees, reached in 1961.

"Things are really wacko," Keefer said.

The record high for February is 82 degrees, set Feb. 24, 1985, Keefer said.

Thursday, and the record-setting Feb. 24 in 1985, are the only two days on record in which the temperature in the area hit the 80s in February, Keefer said.

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On Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating groundhog, failed to see his shadow, promising an early spring.

Keefer said this February is the seventh warmest on record, with an average temperature of 38.9 degrees. The record, from 1976, is 41.9 degrees.

If it was warm Thursday, it also was windy.

Winds with gusts reaching 46 miles per hour helped spur at least half a dozen brush fires in the Tri-State area, emergency dispatchers said.

Steve Lewis, Smithsburg assistant fire chief, said high winds helped rekindle a fire at an orchard in the 14300 block of Edgemont Road at about 4 p.m. The fire spread to a couple of acres of a cornfield before firefighters brought the blaze under control.

Gusts of wind pulled up a rubber and particle board roof at 632 W. Washington St. at about 2:30 p.m.

The rubber and particle board was hanging over the side of the brick building, supported in part by a chimney that it knocked over, said Battalion Chief Richard T. Hopkins.

An asphalt roof beneath the rubber and particle board was not damaged, Hopkins said.

Hopkins said last week's wind gusts of 52 mph could have loosened the roof.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Stern had a scientific explanation for the unseasonably warm air.

Strong southwesterly winds brought subtropical air from the central Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans through to the mid-Atlantic states, he said.

Also, strong westerly winds in the middle atmosphere pushed air down from the Appalachian mountains, drying it out and heating it up in the foothills, Stern said.

Keefer isn't sure that we're out of the woods where winter weather is concerned.

"What will March bring, that's the big question," Keefer said. "I don't want to say that spring is here yet. It's too early."

Temperatures should be in the mid-50s with lows in the 40s and drizzle overnight, Stern said. Saturday should bring light drizzle and highs in the 50s, followed by temperatures in the 60s on Sunday, the 50s Monday and 60s again on Tuesday.

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