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Published: 12/6/2001

Nature delivers gift-wrapped day, temperature record set in Toledo

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Postal carriers wearing shorts. Daisies in bloom. Butterflies merrily in flight at Wildwood Preserve Metropark.

December, anyone?

The mercury climbed all the way to 70 degrees at 2:36 p.m. yesterday at Toledo Express Airport, breaking the record high of 66 degrees set in 1998. The record low for the date is –2 set in 1976.

But you didn't need to be a thermometer-watcher to notice something weird has been happening lately.

Sleds and saucers, normally a hot-ticket item this time of year, can be found stacked high on store shelves.

People have been thinking about other things. Golf, jogging, outdoor basketball, and scuba diving.

Scuba diving? Yes. At Aqua Hut dive shop, 5030 Bennett Rd., 85 people have signed up for diving classes since Nov. 1, many of whom have been taking steps toward achieving their certification by putting in time at the facility's outdoor pool. Even though the pool's heated, the idea of stepping out into freezing air is usually enough to dissuade people from that type of training until spring, owner Jeff Davis said.

At this time last year, that same dive shop was working with five students, he said.

At Wildwood Preserve, an unusually heavy stream of mothers has been out pushing babies in strollers.

There have been no reports of summer-like barbecues breaking out, but there's no question that the place has been experiencing unusually high waves of attendance by office workers during recent lunch hours, Scott Carpenter, a Metroparks spokesman, said.

Metorparks naturalists reported hearing croaks from a hidden reptile called the spring peeper frog about six weeks longer than normal. Even garter snakes have gotten into the act: Instead of slithering away, as they should have weeks ago, they were sunning themselves yesterday on Wildwood's boardwalks, Mr. Carpenter said.

At Put-in-Bay, the Ottawa County village on South Bass Island that's popular among summer tourists, locals put on T-shirts and hung out on the main fishing pier. Not only was the weather cooperative, but the tasty perch have been too: As Lake Erie cools, many of the fish swim to warmer water near the shorelines, according to John Hageman, a fishing guide and state employee who manages Ohio State University's Stone Laboratory near Put-in-Bay.

The same type of scenario was being played out at a number of Lake Erie fishing piers on the mainland, as well, Mr. Hageman said.

Deer have taken advantage of the warm weather by fattening themselves up for the winter. They typically burn off more calories in the cold because of the stress placed on their systems.

Groundhogs, normally in a state of semi-hibernation by now, have been running around like it's spring, Mr. Hageman said.

One of the region's two biggest ferries to Put-in-Bay, Catawba-based Miller Boat Line, Inc., has continued shuttling passengers to and from South Bass well past its original 2001 end-date of Nov. 4. A spokesman for the ferry was not available, but the service was operating yesterday and a recorded message said it might continue through Sunday, weather permitting.

The mild weather has indirectly helped boost the island's economy a little more by keeping remodeling jobs going into December. A number of contractors have been using the extended ferry service to transport materials to Put-in-Bay, Mr. Hageman said.

Miller's chief rival, Port Clinton-based Jet Express, stopped its ferry service for the season on Oct. 28.

Weather experts have attributed the warmth to a strong, west-to-east jet stream that has kept cold Canadian air at bay for an extended period of time.

So when will things get back to normal? Starting today, as many people are waking up, reading this, and taking a sip of their morning coffee or tea.

Temperatures won't crash all at once, but you should notice a quick change.

Today's high is expected to be 50 or 55 degrees, about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than yesterday's. The decline will continue into the weekend, with temperatures dipping into the mid to upper 30s by Saturday or Sunday - possibly going slightly lower than normal, according to Brian Mitchell, a meteorological technician for the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

Records show the average high for Dec. 5 is 39 degrees in Toledo - but that, in reality, the temperatures have been across-the-board the past five years on that date, from a low of 33 degrees on Dec. 5, 1997, to yesterday's high of 70 degrees. Last year's high was 36; the low 18.

Kirk Lombardy, a meteorologist for the weather service, said rain or snow is in the forecast for tomorrow night, followed by the likelihood of snow showers throughout the day on Saturday and a chance of snow on Sunday. It was not immediately clear if there will be enough for an accumulation, he said.

Temperatures have been routinely exceeding normal highs from Georgia to New England. Parts of Wisconsin experienced their warmest November ever.

The warm weather in the Upper Midwest has melted much of the snow dumped by a major storm a week ago, although more than a foot remained on the ground in many parts of central and southwest Minnesota.

A winter storm warning was posted for northwest Minnesota, with 10 inches of snow possible.

In some places, the warmth tricked plants into blooming. Some might not open their flowers in the spring because their buds are breaking the normal dormancy pattern.

“They don't have the brains to be befuddled, but they don't have the option of moving around like animals,” said John Mather, instructional greenhouse manager for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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