Record temperatures prompt holiday shoppers to don shorts; golfers to get in one more round

Thursday, December 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

They're golfing in Nebraska, Christmas shopping in shorts in Kentucky and dining at sidewalk cafes in New York.

Americans are taking advantage of what is shaping up so far to be a balmy December, with several cities breaking temperature records as the mercury soars into the 60s and 70s.

More than 80 golfers showed up to play rounds at Miracle Hills Golf and Tennis Center in Omaha on Tuesday and Wednesday. Highs in the mid-60s were recorded there, breaking the Dec. 5 record of 64 set in 1939 and 1975.

Even though the higher temperatures mean longer-than-usual hours in the fall for employee Ryan Bloomberg, the extra business is helping make up for last spring's slump.

``Come October we're supposed to slow down,'' Bloomberg said. ``That's my vacation time and I haven't had that yet.''

New York City basked in a record high of 70 on Wednesday and a sidewalk cafe remained open across the street from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Much of the same region already had enjoyed an unusually warm November, with temperatures routinely exceeding normal highs from Georgia to chilly New England.

``It's gorgeous,'' said Lew Weinstein, a telecommunications manager in Philadelphia. ``I'm going outside in short-sleeved shirts and I haven't had to pay a hefty fuel bill.''

High temperature records have fallen by the wayside this week from Minnesota to Virginia and from Kansas to Maine as readings reached the upper 60s and low 70s.

In Portland, Maine, the mercury climbed to 60 degrees at the airport, breaking an old record of 55 set in 1951 and tied in 1953 and 1999. More of the same was expected Thursday.

But while some celebrated, birds in New England were being tricked into springtime courtship displays and ski operators were complaining.

For Tricia Unseth, a lodging manager at Whitecap Mountain Ski Resort in Hurley, Wis., the resort's planned opening Friday will have to be delayed by at least a week unless 6 feet of snow falls in a big hurry, she said.

The official high of 68 degrees at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport Wednesday set an all-time record for December, topping the mark of 64 set Dec. 3, 1998, the weather service said. It was the warmest November ever recorded in parts of Wisconsin.

The extended warm spell is due to weather patterns that have kept air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico and has trapped colder air up north, said Bill Grady of the weather service at Burlington, Vt.

A record high 73 degrees was recorded Wednesday in Louisville, Ky., beating the previous record of 69 in 1975, said meteorologist Pat Waidley. The temperature in Lexington reached 72 degrees. The previous high for the city on Dec. 5 was 68 degrees in 1972.

Charles Melton rolled up his shirt sleeves for bell-ringing duty and collected donations into his Salvation Army kettle as holiday shoppers wearing light shirts and sunglasses strolled past.

``This weather is unreal,'' Melton said outside a mall in downtown Louisville.

Rain was expected to move into Kentucky on Thursday, with snow showers possible in some parts Friday night, the weather service said.