Washington residents came out of hibernation yesterday as the area basked in its second day of mid-60s temperatures.

The sunny intermission released regiments of workers into downtown parks, letting them escape from months of lunches at desks or in basement cafeterias.

"I just had to get out. My soul cried out for the freshness and newness after winter," said Deborah Ward, a clerk at the Treasury Department, as she sat in Lafayette Park reading a novel.

"I know it's probably a false harbinger but that doesn't matter," she said. "It just feels so good."

"I have been afflicted with an early and chronic case of spring fever," said an assistant vice president of American Security Bank as he sat nearby in a three-piece, navy blue pin-stripe.

"It makes you get up and get away from your desk, or you bruise your head falling asleep at your desk."

Few of the lunchtime picnickers or the coatless pedestrians who strolled the sidewalks at midday were thinking of this time last year when many of them were digging out from the area's worst snowstorm in half a century.

Yesterday's respite resulted from changing winds in the West and a big low pressure system that has dawdled over the Midwest, according to the U.S. Weather Service.

Instead of the usual cold northwesterly breezes blowing down from Canada, the area is receiving warm air from the West Coast that is detouring south around the low pressure system -- and getting warmer -- before heading to the East Coast.

The temperature climbed to a high of 62 on Wednesday and to 65 yesterday. The normal high for this time of year is 47 degrees, according to the weather service.

The preview of spring has made "everybody more cheerful. I see more smiles," said Jeff Sievers of Alexandria, a government economist. "People I haven't seen in months are out on the street again."

"You hear such bad things about Washington, but it's nice here. It's a happy mood. People have walked by and a couple of them spoke to me," said Matthew Skidmore, 53, a coal mine operator visiting from Frostburg, Md., who lunched in McPherson Square.

"It's like Florida. We don't get weather like this in Frostburg until July," said Skidmore, who was in town to lobby for the coal industry.

The warm weather also sent people shopping. Ree Cramer of Alexandria, who is still recovering from a two-week bout with the flu, walked to Garfinckel's from her 16th and I Street office during lunch.

She bought two get well cards -- one for a friend still suffering from the flu -- and a brithday present. "Normally I couldn't come this far. It's been so damn cold. But it's nice to get out and not be cooped up in the office," she said.