Wayward winds lifted temperatures to balmy heights in the Washington area yesterday, giving residents what could be one last fond, if brief, fling with the pleasures of summer.
Throughout the region, people revelled in the reunion, buying ice cream cones, dressing in short sleeves, and even taking time off work to play tennis or golf. Lenny's, a downtown Washington restaurant, opened its outdoor patio during lunch and had to bring in three extra employes to handle the crowds.
"It's my 30th birthday today, and I can tell you that this is the warmest Nov. 4 that I can remember," said Columbia resident Lauren Greenberg, who was celebrating with a picnic and stroll through Centennial Park.
Actually, yesterday's 3 p.m. high of 77 degrees at National Airport fell short of the record for the date, which was 84 degrees in 1974. Forecasters, reading a warm front that had moved into the area during the last few days, had predicted a high of 82 degrees, two degrees more than the high recorded yesterday at Dulles International Airport.
It was easy to see that this was an Indian Summer instead of the genuine article, and as such had its own advantages. Technicolor trees blazed brightly in the sunlight. The absence of August's legendary humidity made driving with the windows down better than a trip with air conditioning.
"It's days like today that make you wonder what sadist came up with the concept of work," said a Howard County government employe relaxing on a sun-dappled bench.
But those fortunate enough to indulge their summer lust were also disappointed. Hikers seeking camp sites at state parks in Maryland were told to come back after Memorial Day. In the afternoon, Valerie Bachman took her 2-year-old son Timothy to frolic at their neighborhood pool in Columbia, only to find it covered with a thin blanket of leaves. It had been closed since September.
"What's a sun-loving fool to do?" she asked morosely.
Some businesses that typically thrive in warmer weather watched the calendar instead of the mercury, and resisted the temptation to make a little extra money. The Annapolis Sailing School, which only last week had pulled its boats and docks from the Chesapeake for the winter, had to turn down requests for lessons that were trickling in yesterday. Few vessels graced the Potomac as well.
"There is so much preplanning in what we do that we can't just change our plans on a whim," said David Cythers, the school's promotions director.
The National Weather Service, however, says that this time, fall is here to stay, at least until it fades into winter. With fierce winds up to 40 miles per hour expected to sweep the streets clean last night, forecasters were predicting cooler temperatures in the high 60s for today. By Friday and over the weekend, temperatures are expected to dip into the 50s during the day.
Sadie Hall, director of the Georgetown Playground, said the turnout was way above average for a November weekday. She was basically satisfied with the warmer weather, but she had only one complaint: "The darn bees are back. We thought we'd gotten rid of them by now."