Back East, the Ice Man Cometh : Balmy Days Give Southland a Taste of Spring

Times Staff Writer

Eat your heart out, New York.

While you were buried under five inches of snow Thursday and shivering from a wind-chill of 20 degrees below zero, Orange County basked in sunny, 70-degree weather under clear, blue skies. The mild weather is expected to continue through the weekend.

"It's very, very pleasant out here," said Huntington Beach lifeguard Claude Panis at noon, noting that a handful of beachgoers were enjoying a gentle surf and balmy weather in the middle of January.

At Ruby's Diner on the Balboa Pier, manager Joe Campbell said lunchtime business was brisk. Orange County's warm weather "reminds me why I moved out here from Maine. I know what it's like when it gets cold back East."

Indeed, icy, bone-chilling weather Thursday briefly halted air traffic between New York and Washington, blanketed South Dakota with 18 inches of snow, shut public schools from Virginia to Illinois and froze swimming pools in Florida.

Doggone Cold

At Nathan's Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island, N.Y., manager Izzy Rodriguez grumbled, "There's nobody here on the beach. I can't even see the beach. There are four feet of snow on the ground. It's cold."

Told about Southern California's comfortable weather, Rodriguez added: "Tell everybody out there that they're very lucky."

In Orange County, a warming trend that produced springlike weather earlier this week is expected to continue through the weekend, although temperatures may get slightly cooler, weather forecasters said.

"Orange County has no weather problems," said a California Air Quality Management District spokesman, who forecast clean, healthful air throughout the county today.

Betty Reo, a specialist with the National Weather Service, added: "Southern California is certainly one of the warmer parts of the country now. We have a high pressure system over much of the West that is deflecting any storms and keeping the weather warm."

Lower Lows Expected

By noon Thursday, temperatures reached 70 degrees in much of Orange County. Evening lows should dip to 46 degrees over the next several days, according to weather forecasters.

Low clouds and fog will gather in coastal and some inland portions of the county in the evening, but are expected to lift by morning. Lifeguards reported 2- to 4-foot waves with water temperatures of 59 degrees.

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