- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

Cold weather is expected to return to the Washington area as early as this morning, putting a temporary end to the springlike temperatures residents enjoyed in the past four days.

The cold front will move through the area early today, following periods of rain showers and thunderstorms overnight.

Daytime temperatures are expected to reach 60 degrees today, 25 degrees lower than yesterday’s high of 85 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service also warned yesterday that the Baltimore area could still see some snow, even though next Monday is the first official day of spring.

“It is not uncommon to have snow in March,” said James Brotherton, a meteorologist for the weather service. “Usually, it is a minor snow.”

Meteorologists in the Baltimore area on Sunday predicted snow would hit that region on Thursday.

By midafternoon in the D.C. area yesterday, the weather service reported temperatures were an “unseasonably warm” 85 degrees.

The record high for March 13 was 87 degrees, set in 1990.

The unseasonable weather meant delays for commuter rail in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.

CSX imposed heat restrictions on its tracks because of the weather. Trains had to go 20 miles-an-hour slower than normal.

Virginia Railway Express officials said the heat mainly affected the Fredericksburg line and caused up to 20-minute delays. MARC train officials said the Camden and Brunswick runs were delayed by as much as 25 minutes.

Overnight temperatures are expected to drop to 34 degrees tonight. The nighttime trend is expected to drop near freezing Friday and Saturday nights.

Heavy rains that began last night are expected to diminish to light showers today, and return Thursday night and Friday, forecasters said yesterday.

Area residents appreciated the advent of spring last weekend.

On Sunday, a record crowd turned out for the St. Patrick’s Parade along Constitution Avenue. Many in attendance wore shorts, T-shirts, sleeveless shirts and sandals.

Restaurants with outdoor cafes saw plenty of customers.

Area nurseries and garden shops also saw an increase in customers.

“For this time of year, it’s been great,” said Mary Lyons, a manager of Johnson’s Flower & Garden Center in Kensington.

The center was busy throughout the weekend as customers bought seedlings, soil, mulch, fertilizers and equipment to prepare gardens and lawns for the spring and summer.

Mrs. Lyons said she always monitors weather reports to prepare for her customers.

So do other store operators, including Dennis Kelley of Home Depot in Alexandria, who said business was good during high temperatures yesterday.

“But it won’t be [Tuesday] or for the rest of the week,” he said.

Will the first day of spring be good for his business?

“It depends on the weather,” Mr. Kelley replied.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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