- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2012

Record-breaking temperatures in the D.C. area on Thursday had residents flocking outdoors in high spirits ahead of a weekend with the promise of more summery weather.

At sun-drenched Marion Park on Capitol Hill, 32-year-old Noel Fritsch surveyed the busy playground as he sipped from a sweating cup of iced coffee.

“This is absolutely amazing,” Mr. Fritsch said. “It’s been a great spring. My wife and I opened the windows and enjoyed the fresh air.”

The mercury hit 82 degrees by midafternoon at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, said National Weather Service meteorologist Heather Sheffield, breaking the March 15 record high of 81 degrees set in 1990.

This time last year, residents were bundled against a brisk 51 degrees, but Ms. Sheffield said the weather service is predicting at least another week of 60- and 70-degree weather and a warmer than normal April.

As temperatures reached an unusual high, Washington, D.C. native James Fisher, 70, seeks shelter from the sun behind a colorful umbrella at the Occupy DC encampment he has called home since October of 2011 at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., Thursday, March 15, 2012. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
As temperatures reached an unusual high, Washington, D.C. native James Fisher, 70, ... more >

“Everyone wants to eat outside,” said Alvin Ross, manager of Mr. Henry’s Restaurant along the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast.

“Usually, I take March to train all the new people about the patio. Now, I am working a lot of shifts.”

Mr. Henry’s boasts a patio that can fit up to 70 customers, and as the lunch hour neared on Thursday, the seats began to fill.

“They say we’ll see it through next week,” said Mr. Ross, 65. “It’s very unusual, but it’s been great.”

This year’s mild winter and early arrival of spring have been a welcome change for many, but the warm weather has caused at least one hiccup.

The National Park Service’s chief horticulturist Robert DeFeo announced this week that the peak bloom time for the cherry blossoms would occur one week earlier because of the warm weather.

The peak bloom period is now expected to start March 18 and the best time to see the blooms is predicted to be March 20 through 23, instead of the last week of March.

The peak bloom period now starts earlier than the “spring break” planned by Metro and its track workers. Because of the added ridership during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the transportation system announced a partial work hiatus between March 24 and April 20. Officials have not announced plans to change the date.

“There’s just so many moving parts, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it,” said Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas. “Unfortunately, we’re kind of set.”