Yesterday was winter without the cold, or summer without the leaves and flowers, depending on your outlook.

Either way, Charles Coffer, a U.S. Capitol Police officer, was afraid he was dreaming when he got up in late morning. So he tuned in the weather station on his cable television and discovered that indeed, temperatures had hit the 70s in the Washington area and elsewhere along the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

Coffer then cleaned house, seeded the lawn, went shopping for a new car and washed the car he already has. Later, he said, he'd go out jogging.

"It's too nice -- I can't believe it," said Coffer as he stood in his driveway near Wild World in Prince George's County.

A high of 74 degrees was recorded yesterday at National Airport, 19 degrees above normal for March 10, and just three degrees shy of the record. At Dulles International Airport, the afternoon temperature of 77 degrees easily surpassed the old record there of 74 degrees set 22 years ago.

Baltimore reported temperatures of 78 degrees -- the highest in the area -- which beat the old Baltimore record of 77 degrees, also set in 1964. Richmond tied its record of 77; as did Philadelphia, at 73, and Atlantic City, N.J., at 72.

High temperatures today should be 67 to 69 degrees, before low March temperatures start creeping in tonight.

The high tomorrow is expected to be in the low 50s.

Coffer had his own idea why the weather was so benevolent: "The Lord figured that the politicians weren't giving the public anything, so He stepped in, and gave us a break in our heating bills."

The National Weather Service was more precise. Washington was caught between a high pressure system spinning clockwise over the Atlantic, and a low pressure system spinning counterclockwise over the Ohio Valley, according to spokesman Scott Prosise. The two systems acted like eggbeaters, and pushed up a rush of warm air from the south.

"It's going to get cold again," predicted Vernon Gilliam as he took a break in the afternoon sun outside a garden supply shop in Seat Pleasant. Gilliam cuts grass and gardens for a living and knows about these things. "I think it's going to be way up in April before the weather breaks open," he predicted.

In District Heights, Renee Lee had similar predictions as she delivered mail door to door in a short-sleeved shirt. "It probably won't stay," she sighed.

For law student Frank Jones, it might be better if it didn't. Jones finished playing his first round of golf this year near Upper Marlboro. He scored 39 over par, cracked the head off his number 3 wood and lost $4 to his law school partner and golfing rival Greg Beckwith.

"It was too windy," he said.