- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The shortest month of the year began nearly 30 degrees warmer than usual in the District, continuing a spell of balmy weather that kept temperatures well above - and snowfall well below - averages for January.

As the mercury touched 70 degrees late Wednesday afternoon, workers strolled coatless downtown and tourists on the Mall snapped photographs while wearing little more than jeans and T-shirts.

The warm start to February follows the 17th warmest January on record for the D.C. area, National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Klein said.

“The average temperature this time of year is supposed to be around 36degrees or so,” Mr. Klein said.

As pleasant as Wednesday’s weather was, temperatures still were below the record high for Feb. 1 in the District, which hit 77 degrees in 2002. The coldest day on record for Feb. 1 was 6 degrees in 1935.

According to the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center, there’s a good chance February temperatures will stay above the average 39 degrees for the month.

In the more than 150 years of weather records, average February temperatures in the District have soared as high as 47.1 degrees and as low as 30.9 degrees.

Mr. Klein said the unseasonably warm weather is helped by broad southern winds from the Gulf of Mexico.

Last month, just 1.7 inches of snow fell on the D.C. area, making it the 17th-lowest January snowfall total on record.

Predicting snowfall in the District, however, isn’t easy, Mr. Klein said.

“In the winter of 2009-10, we had 24 inches,” Mr. Klein said. “You definitely can’t base D.C. winters on what happened two years ago.”

Last January, the area recorded 7.3 inches of snow - also above the January average for the past 30 years, which was 5.6 inches of snow. Nearly half of the January total last year fell in the course of a fast-moving Jan. 26 storm that struck during the afternoon rush hour and dumped heavy, wet snow.

The warm, dry weather so far this year is a welcome break for city agencies, officials said, especially for road projects that could be delayed by inclement weather.

“It helps a lot,” D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle said. “The more days we have like this, the more our crews are able to keep working. Generally, we have to stop our road resurfacing in the winter.”

A dry winter also means fewer potholes, he said.

The warm weather also meant a potential break for D.C. Public Schools students with cabin fever.

“This definitely has outdoor recess written all over it,” said spokesman Fred Lewis.