Warm weather brings a taste of spring to central and western United States

Feb 25, 2024, 3:30 PM | Updated: 5:00 pm

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A warm front swept springlike weather across a large swath of the country Sunday in what is usually one of the coldest months of the year, sending people out of their homes to enjoy the rare winter respite but also bringing increased wildfire danger.

In Omaha, Nebraska, the temperature Sunday broke 65 degrees (18.3 degrees Celsius) on a day when the average high temperature is around the freezing mark, according to the National Weather Service.

“Omaha is having its second warmest February on record in its 154-year history of tracking weather,” National Weather Service meteorologist Michaela Wood said Sunday. “And there’s a chance of beating the record yet tomorrow, when we’re looking at a high temperature of around 80.”

The sunny warmth brought Stacy Lawson, and her husband, Hugh Lawson, of Omaha, outside for a game of pickleball with friends. But they weren’t the only ones.

“Outdoor courts are prime real estate when it’s warm,” Stacy Lawson said. “The first one we tried was already filled.”

The Lawsons and their competitors, Tim and Andrea Driscoll, had a hard time remembering the last year they were able to play outside in February.

“In Nebraska, February is both the shortest and longest month of the year,” Tim Driscoll deadpanned.

While the warmer-than-usual temperatures may have provided a break from harsh winter conditions, it didn’t come without some concerns. The National Weather Service cited the warmth, along with low humidity, winds gusting more than 35 mph (56 kph) in places, and dry winter vegetation in issuing fire danger alerts in an area stretching across parts of 11 states.

Red flag warnings and fire weather watches were issued in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, up to Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and east to Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Nearby states, including parts of Arkansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, were issued hazardous weather outlooks because of an increased fire danger, according to weather service maps.

A grassfire whipped up by high winds closed Interstate 25 near the Colorado-Wyoming border for about an hour Saturday before it was extinguished, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The unusually early warm spell could telegraph trouble ahead, Wood said. The Climate Prediction Center says there is an elevated chance of higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-normal rain for the region through the end of summer.

“If we keep going in this trend, we could go back into a drought, and that would be a big concern — especially when it comes to fire risk,” she said.

Temperatures reached into the 60s in Denver, Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday, and Kansas City, Missouri, saw temperatures in the mid-70s. The unseasonably warm conditions saw plenty of people heading outdoors to play in local parks, wash their cars and even get an early jump on lawn care.

In Chicago, people who would normally be in winter gear to fight off the city’s famously bitter winter winds instead frolicked around Lake Michigan’s shores in light jackets or even shorts and T-shirts.

Bethany Scheiner, 53, took advantage of the weather to head with her 14-year-old son to Lincoln Park in Chicago so he could practice his football punting skills.

“It’s so unusual,” Scheiner said of the warm weather. “I mean, this is the month we all go away to get away from the Chicago winter.”

The warmup is expected to bring some record-breaking high temperatures Monday, Wood said. But by Tuesday night, a cold front will drop the region back into winter, with wind chills below zero and snow in much of the central part of the country by Wednesday.

United States News

Supporters wave to former President Donald Trump as he arrives to the Milwaukee Mitchell Internatio...

Associated Press

America’s toxic political climate faces calls to ‘tone it down’ after assassination attempt on Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Tone it down!” That was the plea from one Republican congressman as he came to grips with the assassination attempt against Donald Trump at a political rally in the Butler Farm area where he grew up. “I am in a state of bewilderment of how and what has happened to the United […]

41 minutes ago

Associated Press

Winston, beloved gorilla at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, dies at 52 after suffering health problems

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) — Winston, a western lowland gorilla who was a favorite attraction at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, has died at the age of 52 after suffering multiple health problems, officials said. The park said Winston was euthanized Saturday after veterinarians determined his condition was declining. “After careful consideration stemming from furthering […]

1 hour ago

President Joe Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sun...

Associated Press

In primetime address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘It’s time to cool it down’

President Joe Biden warned Sunday of the the risks of political violence in the U.S. after Saturday’s attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, saying, “It's time to cool it down.”

2 hours ago

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks in Washington, May 22, 2024. Haley on Tuesday, July 9, op...

Associated Press

Nikki Haley, Trump’s former primary rival, will now speak Tuesday at the Republican convention

Nikki Haley will speak Tuesday at the RNC in what will be a highly anticipated speech by Donald Trump's last major challenger.

3 hours ago

Gov. Greg Abbott receives a briefing for Hurricane Beryl from local elected officials Sunday, July ...

Associated Press

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demands answers as customers remain without power after Beryl

DALLAS (AP) — With around 350,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he’s demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms. “Power […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Acclaimed video artist Bill Viola dies at 73, created landmark `Tristan und Isolde’ production

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Bill Viola, a video artist who combined with director Peter Sellars on a groundbreaking production of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” originally seen in Los Angeles, Paris and New York, has died at age 73. Viola died Friday at his home in Long Beach of Alzheimer’s disease, his website announced. What […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Warm weather brings a taste of spring to central and western United States