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U.S. LEAPT FROM WINTER TO SUMMER

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A surprisingly warm April gave the East Coast an early taste of summer and jangled the nerves of flood-conscious Midwesterners.

For the first time in recent memory, the entire country had above normal temperatures in April, an analysis by the National Climatic Data Center in Ashevill, N.C., shows. as a result, the 48 contiguous states had their 20th warmest April since climatologists began keeping nationwide weather records 100 years ago."April was warm everywhere, from the Atlantic to the Pacific" said climatologist William Brown. "Many Americans got the impression there was no spring, that the weather had gone from winter to summer."

That was especially true in Maryland and Virginia, which had their hottest April in 100 years, and North Carolina, New Jersey and West Virginia, which had their second hottest.

The Atlantic Seaboard's warmth extended from Rhode Island, which recorded its fifth hottest April, to Pennsylvania (seventh warmest), to Delaware and Florida (10th warmest) and inland to Kentucky (eighth warmest) and Tennessee (ninth warmest).

April's hot spell was caused by an unusually early intrusion of the Bermuda High, the big dome of air that sits over the Atlantic Ocean. The high, which frequently invades the Southeastern states in the summer, stuck its nose over the Southeast in early April and hung around. That established a weather pattern that skyrocketed temperatures from the Gulf of Mexico to New England.

The Bermuda High's early visitation also ended a six-month-long nationwide weather pattern that caused frigid temperatures in the East and warmth in the West.

"That pattern broke in April," Brown said. "The entire country was warm from coast to coast."

Temperatures averaged one to eight degrees above normal east of the Mississippi and two to four degrees above from the continental divide to the West Coast.

The nervousness in the Midwest was caused by a spate of thundershowers that dropped heavy precipitation in the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys. As a result, Missouri had its second wettest April in 100 years and Illinois its third wettest. Kentucky and Minnesota had their 10th wettest April.

April's biggest weather disappointment was in the Pacific Northwest where prolonged drought continued to plague much of Oregon and Washington.

"I'd have to say April's weather was a sudden and dramatic change, particularly in the East," Brown said, "When winter ended, it crashed. The next day it was summer."