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Weather swings not unusual for February

February 22, 2001

Weather swings not unusual for February



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Waiting for busIt's warm. It's cold. It's warm again, and then the next thing you know, snow is in the forecast.

What's going on with the weather? Nothing out of the ordinary, according to weather experts.

"It's not really that unusual," said John Newkirk of the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

Newkirk said forecasters had predicted a mild winter and the fluctuations in temperatures were expected.

Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer said normal temperatures for February range from a high of 39 degrees to a low of 24 degrees. Tuesday's high was 62 degrees, he said.

"It didn't set any records, but February can see some big extremes," Keefer said.

The National Weather Service is predicting 1 to 3 inches of snow will fall today, with temperatures in the upper 20s.

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Forecasters are calling for temperatures to jump back up to the mid- to upper 50s by Sunday.

When temperatures rise, the number of people who get sick can increase, according to Anand Budi, a pediatrician at The Children's Doctor in Hagerstown.

Budi said his office sees 20 percent more patients when there are shifts in temperatures.

He said the recent weather patterns increase the chances of people coming down with upper respiratory problems such as runny noses and coughs. That's because when the day starts out cold, and warms up in the afternoon, people often find they aren't dressed properly.

"People think it's spring, and they run around in just T-shirts, and that's where the problem is," Budi said.

His advises dressing in layers and removing or adding layers according to the weather.

He tells his patients to wash their hands frequently and to keep a humidifier running on cold nights to add moisture to the air. He said when the heat is on, it tends to dry out the air and irritate the upper respiratory system.

"Dryness actually increases the spread of the bug more easily," Budi said. "The illness keeps on going in the house."

At least one orchardist wasn't too worried about the recent temperature fluctuations.

J.D. Rinehart, owner of Rinehart's Orchard, said his trees can handle a day or two of above-normal temperatures at this time of the year. It's when temperatures stay high for three days or more that orchardists begin to worry.

He said peaches can start blooming early and die by the spring. The normal bloom time for peaches is April 15.

"So far, so good," Rinehart said. "Any time you get some temperatures in the high 60s or 70s, I'd say then you have to start worrying."

On the other hand, if the weather drops to the 20s or below and stays there, buds can freeze and break off, he said.

For now, Rinehart said he isn't too concerned about the weather.

"We're in good shape now," Rinehart said. "But if the weather would stay warm, then we'd worry."

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