"I didn't know how warm it would be today," said Valerie McGregor as she made her way down Massachusetts Avenue with a warm breeze yesterday. "It feels like a new life. I haven't seen so many people out for months."
The warmest weather to grace the town in 2 1/2 months brought people out of their offices and homes as the temperature reached a high of 61 degrees. The record high for Feb. 10 is 68 degrees, set in 1960.
The National Weather Service said it will remain relatively warm here through Tuesday, with night time lows in the mid-30s, but rain is predicted for late Saturday or Sunday.
The ice that has refused to thaw during the recent bitter cold began to melt and people said their heavy winter coats for light jackets as they emerged into the surprisingly warm day.
All around the city, people seemed touched with spring fever and they went to ice cream parlors and bought ice cream, drove around with their car windows down, jogged and bicycle in the parks.
"All of the pleasure is back in living," said Thomas Gervin, eating Rocky oRad his favorite ice cream flavor - for the first time since the cold spell began - outside of a Baskin-Robbins parlor. "I just said to hell with work this afternoon."
Sheila Murray, a secretary, also said she left her office early to enjoy the day. "It is like spring today," she said as she walked down P Street NW with her coat open - "I hope it stays like this. I want to go out a ride this weekend."
To Randy Miller, who was walking along K Street, the best part of the day was the people. "Everybody's out of their holes," he said. "I haven't seen so many girls in God Knws how long."
On the basketball court on P Street between 16th and 17th Streets youngsters and men played for the first time in months.
"I called the guys at work," said James Crawford, a truck driver who was still dressed in his green work clothes, "and told them to get down here. Shooting hoop and getting a couple of six packs is a must for a day like this."
In Lafayette Park, Corina Sanchez, who is a babysitter for three children, sat in the sunlight and watched them chase squirrels and each other.
"I really haven't taken them out since October," said Sanchez. "It's hard on them to be inside all the time. They're glad to be able to take off those snow suits, she said.
On a bench near some young men drinking beer and playing a guitar, Andrea James sat reading Moby Dick.
"I'm not changing my clothes yet," she said. "A lot of these fools are going to catch pneumonia, but I couldn't help coming out and sitting in the park."
Collin Jaspers, who was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, with her coat open, said she thinks it will get cold again soon.
"I'm out here to enjoy it while I can," she said. "It won't last. My first priority is going to be cleaning the windows at home. I haven't looked out in years."
The cause of all the good weather is a high pressure area over the southeastern part of the country, said the National Weather Service.
The cold weather abated through most of the country yesterday except in Buffalo, N.Y., where two more inches of snow fell. The National Weather Service said the high temperatures would prevail in from the Rockies to the Mid-Atlantic coast through Tuesday.
Roudolph Miles, who was driving BMW sports car with the windows rolled down, said the warm weather was a ne lease on life for him.
"I'm tired of all that snow and ice. You can go outside without freezing now. It is a whole new world."