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Washington area shows signs of spring

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By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 22, 2010

Snowplows can still be spotted, and snowbanks remain, but despite the recent storms and cold, the Washington area is showing true signs of spring. Sunday's high temperature was 50 degrees, this month's highest.

Without human effort or the use of chemicals, artificial heaters or mechanical devices, the 32 inches of snow that fell at Reagan National Airport this month have dwindled to a mere 4, National Weather Service figures show. Almost 90 percent of the record-setting snow is gone, yielding to nature and the sun.

Moreover, when clouds arrive Monday, all they will bring, according to forecasts, is rain. For the first time this month, the area is expected to have a wet day that is not also a snowy one.

Which is not that surprising. Meteorological winter, the three months considered by weather people to be the coldest, ends Feb. 28. (The spring equinox, which many people view as the start of spring, is March 20. )

However, Sunday marked an astronomical milestone on the way to the long and lazy days of summer. Sunday was the first time since Oct. 19 that the District had 11 hours of daylight.

One official sign of spring has largely gone overlooked amid concerns about cold, snow, salting and shoveling.

It was last week's announcement from the Prince William County government, serving notice, without irony, that under state regulations, the spring burning law took effect Feb. 15. It bans burning before 4 p.m. through April 30, if the fire is within 300 feet of woodland, brush or fields containing flammable materials.

The day the spring burning season started, last Monday, was not springlike: The high was 39, 7 degrees below normal. The low was 19 degrees, 11 below normal. One-tenth of an inch of snow fell, and 13 inches remained from earlier storms.

The 50-degree reading Sunday at 3:51 p.m. was above normal, even if by only 2 degrees.

But that high was 5 degrees higher than those of any day this month (the high Friday was 45), and it was the first day this month that the high exceeded the normal figure.

Still, signs of winter and its storms linger. In Maryland, it could be said that Valentine's Day ended Sunday because of the snow. On Feb. 12, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) had issued a statement noting that weather problems could impede celebration of the Feb. 14 holiday.

The governor said Marylanders could mark the occasion while aiding businesses that depend on it by "extending Valentine's Day another week." But now it's over.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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