NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- The hint of spring was quick.
A day after people from Texas to Buffalo, N.Y., basked in record-setting warm temperatures, a storm front that hammered the northern Plains with snow arrived in the Northeast early today.
Winds gusting to 64 mph were reported in New York, Pennsylvania and other parts of New England. Temperatures plummeted more than 25 degrees in some areas and highs today were forecast to be 20 degrees to 40 degrees cooler than the 60s and 70s on Thursday.
The unseasonably warm weather unleashed thunderstorms and spring fever. Dozens played hooky at the Bellevue Country Club in Syracuse, N.Y.
''Most everybody took the day off,'' said golf course manager Dave Southard. ''I've worked here 11 years, and this is the earliest in the year we've had this much play.''
In Worcester, Mass., the temperature climbed to 74 degrees, leapfrogging the old record of 60. It was 34 degrees above the normal high, according to the National Weather Service.
Records were set at 78 degrees in Atlantic City, N.J., and at 73 in both Scranton, Pa., and Rochester, N.Y. Boston was a record 72. Even Burlington, Vt., hit 66, beating the record of 60 set in 1921.
The 68 degrees in Buffalo broke the 1878 record for the date by a single degree, though the city expected patchy snow today. Record highs were also set in Houston, New Orleans, Richmond, Va., and at Dulles airport in Washington, D.C.
At Court Square in Springfield, Mass., hot dog vendor Martin Johnson basked in short sleeves as he tended his steaming trays. ''There are no other carts out,'' he said. ''The warm spell caught them unexpected.''
In Burlington, Dave Holbrook, owner of Seasonal Pool & Patio, said the warmth spurred a burst of interest in pool buying. In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino handed out flowers in Copley Square.
Spring begins March 20, but pigeons and robins battled for worms in the Thursday afternoon sunshine at Lincoln Park in Newark.
''Don't get used to this,'' cautioned Orlando Perez as he strolled through the park. ''This week, it might be 60 or 70 and next week be 30 or 40.''
Just ask the folks in northern Wisconsin, where the mercury dropped nearly 50 degrees from near 70 on Wednesday. There was a fresh coat of white today after a storm dumped a foot of snow on part of the state and sparked a tornado near Milwaukee.
Scraping off the snow and ice from his car in Eau Claire, Shawn Flippin had expected winter's return.
''I think it was going to happen,'' Flippin said. ''It was just a matter of when.''
On the Net:
National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov
Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com
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