Winter-weary Easterners and Midwesterners shucked their parkas and strolled outdoors in shirt sleeves Monday as summer-like heat defrosted the Snow Belt and broke or tied records in more than 50 cities.
Temperatures soared into the upper 80s and low 90s along the Atlantic Coast. In Washington, D.C., the thermometer surged to 89 degrees, surpassing the old record for the day by 14 degrees. Nearby Baltimore sweltered at an incredible 92. Richmond, Va., and Augusta, Ga., reached 88.
The high of 67 at La Crosse, Wis., broke a record set in 1877. Most of the records were in the 60s and 70s.
The record-setting heat stretched from Sioux City, Iowa, east to Atlantic City and from Minneapolis south to Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.
The premature summer weather is expected to entice the famous cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., into full bloom by Thursday, five days ahead of the previous record, National Park Service scientist William Anderson said.
That is bad news for organizers of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, scheduled for early April.
Ray Brady of the National Weather Service in Washington said that the record heat was caused by a very warm southwesterly flow of air around a surface high-pressure system centered to the southeast of the region.
He called the unseasonal weather a "little scary" and said it was expected to remain unbroken at least through today.
Not everyone was convinced, however, that the heat wave meant winter was gone for good.
"This is the Poconos, and we could see snow on Easter Sunday," said Joe Pipolo, owner of an auto detailing business in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. "March and April could be freaky months still."
In ordinarily wintry Illinois, the unusual weather resulted in more than 2 inches of weekend rains that were still causing havoc as the workweek began.
A flash-flood watch was canceled just before dawn, but more than 200 people remained evacuated from their east-central Illinois homes because of flooding along the Vermillion River that floated mobile homes off their moorings.
No injuries were reported, but Interstate Water Co. in Danville was unable to pump water from the river. The private utility asked customers to conserve water and boil whatever they used. A shelter at a nearby grade school was housing those flooded out in the villages of Alvin and Bismarck.
Scattered thunderstorms were expected through today in Oklahoma, where up to 5 inches of weekend rain forced more than 30 people from their homes in Skiatook and routed about 20 people in Bartlesville and 15 in Guthrie.
Rain continued in North Texas, where torrential thunderstorms Sunday led to at least one death. Paul Cooley, 13, drowned Sunday night after falling into a rain-swollen creek in Trophy Club.