Temperatures rise back toward record highs from Minnesota to Northeast

Wednesday, December 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Golfers returned to the fairways Wednesday in Minnesota as unusually mild weather sent temperatures rising toward record highs from the Midwest to the East Coast.

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul hit a record 59 degrees by 7 a.m. and the temperature kept rising into the 60s. Thermometers edged up to 60 before noon in New York City, on the way to an expected high of 70.

At least two golf courses opened in the Twin Cities area, and 40 to 50 golfers were already on the course at 9 a.m. at River Oaks Municipal Golf Course in Cottage Grove, Minn.

``It's windy but it's fun,'' Roger Nelson of Prescott, Wis., said at River Oaks. ``It's golf. You can't beat that.''

On Tuesday, Fort Smith, Ark., peaked at a record 79, and records in the 60s and 70s were posted from Wisconsin to Virginia.

``We've had more than 100 golfers out here,'' general manager David Holtze said Tuesday at Forest Hills Public Golf Course at La Crosse, Wis. Last year, the golf course closed for the season on Nov. 15, though it has stretched into December in the past.

The East Coast already had enjoyed an unusually warm November, with temperatures routinely exceeding normal highs from Georgia to chilly New England. It was the warmest November ever recorded in parts of Wisconsin.

The warm weather in the Upper Midwest has melted much of the snow dumped by a major storm a week ago, although there was still more than a foot of snow on the ground in many parts of central and southwestern Minnesota, where Willmar collected 30 inches.

However, the combination of the warm, moist air and the snow still on the ground created dense fog on Wednesday. Some Minnesota schools closed for the day and others opened late.

Cooler air was on the way for some areas. A cold front brought freezing rain to eastern North Dakota early Wednesday and Grand Forks city buses were pulled off the streets. A winter storm warning was posted for northwestern Minnesota, with 10 inches of snow possible.

Far to the north in Alaska, Anchorage chilled to below zero during the weekend _ for the first time in 683 days.

In some places, the warmth has tricked plants into blooming, and they probably won't open their flowers in the spring because their buds are breaking the normal dormancy pattern.

``They don't have the brains to be befuddled, but they don't have the option of moving around like animals,'' said John Mather, instructional greenhouse manager for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.