| CHICAGO, April 2
CHICAGO, April 2 Last month was the warmest
March on record across half of the United States with
summer-like temperatures providing some welcome news to the
country's farmers and clothing retailers, a weather expert said
Forecasters predicted April could be another
warmer-than-normal month, though they said temperatures were
likely to fluctuate in a more seasonal pattern in the first half
of the month and that fewer records would be shattered.
Accuweather.com said cities in more than 25 states, as well
Washington, D.C., broke records for average daily temperatures
last month, including Chicago, Oklahoma City, Des Moines,
Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Detroit.
New York City and Philadelphia both came within 0.4 degrees
of beating existing records for average temperatures in March.
Albany, New York took the prize for breaking the oldest
temperature record on the books, according to Accuweather.com.
Its average daily temperature in March was 45.9 degrees,
breaking a record of 44.4 degrees set in 1859, the private
weather forecasting firm said.
St. Louis also broke a longstanding record, according to the
National Weather Service, enjoying its warmest March since
record-keeping started in 1874.
The average temperature in St. Louis in March was 61.1
degrees, the Weather Service said, soaring past the former
record of 57.7, set in 1910.
The unusually warm temperatures allowed farmers in the
country's Corn Belt to plant 3 percent of this year's corn crop
before the traditional April 1 start to the planting season, the
U.S. Agriculture Department said on Monday, matching the fastest
pace on record.
The USDA report did not show how much corn was planted in
Iowa, the country's top producer. But planting in Illinois,
which usually produces the second largest amount of corn, was 5
percent complete by the end of the month, the department said.
Cropcast Ag Services, a private forecasting company and
division of MDA EarthSat Weather, predicted March "will surely
go down as one for the ages."
The summer-like temperatures are also expected to have
boosted the fortunes of clothing retailers, prompting consumers
to snap up spring clothing earlier than usual and leading to
broad sales gains at top U.S. chains.
The milder winter left the stores stuck with an inventory of
warm clothes in December and January. But most of the retailers
accelerated their shipment of spring products to take advantage
of the weather.
As a result, analysts expect retailers to build on the sales
gains they posted in February when they report sales for March
Mike Pigott, a forecaster at Accuweather.com, said the
long-range forecast suggested a good chunk of the country would
enjoy warmer-than-normal temperatures again in April, especially
in the latter half of the month.
In the meantime, he said residents who were spoiled by the
summer-like warmth in March will be subjected to several weeks
of more seasonable and more spring like fluctuations in
"The pattern will feel more normal than what we saw in March
-- at least for the first half of April," Pigott said.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey, Bruce Olson, Julie
Ingwersen, Christine Stebbins, Nivedita Bhattacharjee and Mark
Weinraub; Editing by Greg McCune)