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Balmy December

Birds nested, bulbs sprouted, and golfers got in one more game Wednesday as temperatures soared into the 60s and 70s from the upper Midwest to the East Coast.

"It's kind of a gift," said David Horst, clad in shorts, as he walked up to the first tee at Scarlet Oaks Country Club at Poca, W.Va.

But while he celebrated, birds in New England were being tricked into springtime courtship displays, and ski resort operators were complaining.

"It's driving our snowmakers nuts," said Joe Stevens, a spokesman for Snowshoe Mountain resort near Slaty Fork, W.Va. "All the snow guns are there. The system is working fine, and now they have to sit. It's frustrating."

New York City basked with a record high of 70 on Wednesday and a sidewalk cafe remained open across the street from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which was admired by tourists strolling in shirt sleeves.

High temperature records fell by the wayside from Minnesota to Virginia and from Kansas to Maine as readings reached the upper 60s and low 70s. In Iowa, the National Weather Service said Des Moines was the only official reporting station in the state that did not break a record.

The extended warm spell is due to weather patterns that have kept air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico and has trapped colder air up north, said Bill Grady of the weather service at Burlington, Vt.

"It's gorgeous," said Lew Weinstein, a telecommunications manager in Philadelphia. "I'm going outside in short-sleeved shirts and I haven't had to pay a hefty fuel bill."

Weinstein said he went to the New Jersey shore last weekend and planned to enjoy the warmth while it lasted. "I know it's going to get cold and I know it's going to snow."

"It's beautiful, it's kind of strange, it's December," Dwight Price, 35, said in Camden, N.J.

Much of the same region already had enjoyed an unusually warm November, with temperatures routinely exceeding normal highs from Georgia to chilly New England. It was the warmest November ever recorded in parts of Wisconsin.

Woodpeckers have started noisy courtship displays in the Massachusetts woods and some forsythia bushes bloomed along the Charles River in Boston.

"A pair of sparrows have cleaned out the bluebird box in my back yard and are busy stuffing it with nesting material," said Bill Davis, a state wildlife biologist in Massachusetts.

Like Snowshoe in West Virginia, ski areas in the Midwest and New England were ready for a change.

"The cold air is all sitting in Canada; we're just waiting to catch some of it," said Tricia Unseth, lodging manager at Whitecap Mountain Ski Resort in Hurley, Wis.

Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort had planned to let skiers try out new equipment this weekend; instead, it will haul the new skis into the lodge and throw a party with a band, outside bonfire and food.

"We're trying to make lemonade out of lemons," said Stowe's Kirt Zimmer.

At least two golf courses opened Wednesday in the Minneapolis-St. Paul aea, which hit a record 59 degrees by 7 a.m. and continued up to 63.

"It's windy but it's fun," Roger Nelson of Prescott, Wis., said at River Oaks Municipal Golf Course in Cottage Grove, Minn.

However, he and others may have wanted jackets before they finished as a cold front sweeping over the upper Midwest dropped the Twin Cities reading back to 53 by noon. The same front brought freezing rain to eastern North Dakota, and Grand Forks suspended bus service on the slippery streets.

By Lisa Rathke © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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