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Season off to warm start

December 05, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

'Tis the season to ... wear shorts?

Sunday's weather was far from the frigid late-fall lows that numbed noses last week. In an unseasonably warm weekend, the temperature reached highs in the sixties and the sun didn't disappear.

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The mercury marched to a high of 63 degrees Friday, 64 degrees Saturday and 67 Sunday, according to weather observer Greg Keefer. The region's average temperature has been about 18 degree above normal, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Woodcock.

"It's been pretty warm, on the whole," he said.

Sunday's snow-spoiling conditions are thanks to a high-pressure system off the southeast coast and a front over the Mississippi Valley, according to Woodcock. Those systems are pushing a warm gulf air stream up over the mid-Atlantic states.

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Some residents spent part of Sunday buying Christmas trees, a typically colder task. At Greensburg Farm Market, Joe Semler of Hagerstown carefully roped one to the roof of his Dodge Caravan.

"It's perfect weather for getting a tree," he said. "You don't have to freeze."

Raymond Stagner, who owns the farm market, said he wants to see things cool off. "That's flower weather," he said, pointing to a man wearing shorts. "We'd like to see coats. We're looking for colder weather, for sure."

The air was not brisk, but tree sales were. Stagner estimated between 50 and 100 sales Saturday and Sunday.

Trees are in better shape this year. Last year, little rain fell in early fall, making trees dry, according to Stagner. Now they are moist and staying fresh. "I'm not nearly as worried as I was last year," he said.

Nearby in a Wesel Boulevard parking lot, Boy Scouts from Waynesboro, Pa., were also selling trees. Bill Hoppes said his shift had just begun at 2 p.m. but Troop No. 97 had already sold 25 trees.

Cheryl Davis of Williamsport was his latest customer. Along with Kayla, 9, and Kyle, 7, she supervised while her husband, Gary, persuaded the long tree into their trunk.

"Next weekend it will probably be nasty out. The weather's good (now), so I thought, might as well go ahead and get it," she said. "Last year, when we bought one, I was in shorts."

Sunday was cooler compared to last year's record-setting warmth. A year ago Sunday, the temperature at Reagan National Airport was 79 degrees. Between Dec. 4 and 6 in 1998, temperatures reached highs of 76, 73 and 78 degrees, according to Woodcock.

Families flocked to Hagerstown City Park Sunday, basking in balmy air. Alison Fowler said she was grateful for the warmth because she could bring her 2-year-old son, Ethan, outside.

"He's been cooped up," she said. Fowler pushed her baby girl, Olivia, and son in a stroller by the lake. The playground was too crowded for Ethan, she said.

Kids could be seen chasing ducks and using the playground's seesaws, swings and slides. Some people walked dogs along the path while a few sat still. Shirley Vance pushed her 4-year-old grandson, Denny Rowe, on a swing.

"It's wonderful, beautiful," she said of the weather. "Tomorrow they say it's going to rain, so I thought I'd better get out while the getting was good."

A cold front was expected to bring showers early this morning and an 80 percent chance of rain today, according to the weather service. Today's high temperature will be in the 50s with southwest winds at 10 to 15 mph.

In the afternoon, the winds will shift northwest and skies will be partly cloudy. Tonight's low will be in the upper 30s. The rest of the week's forecast is mostly sunny and breezy. Highs drop to the upper 40s Tuesday but bounce back to the 50s Wednesday.

Woodcock can't say when a cold snap will come. The jet stream is running too high in Canada - it must come south to push the cold air this way, he said.

The weatherman wants it to snow, but he doesn't know when it will.

Asked if Christmas will be white, he said, "Right now, I would lean toward no."

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