Triangle basks in summer-like temps in last week of winter

Posted March 14, 2012 12:49 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2012 7:20 p.m. EDT

— A high-pressure system and warm air streaming up from the south pushed temperatures across much of central North Carolina into the 80s Wednesday, sending many residents outside for an early taste of summer.

Amy Hambright stopped by The Meat House in north Raleigh to pick up something to throw on the grill for dinner.

"Tonight, it’s chicken – garlic chicken – so we’re looking forward to it. Last night was hamburgers," Hambright said.

The high temperature of 84 degrees at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport was 22 degrees above normal mid-March temperatures for the region, and WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said the summer-like weather should last for several days.

A ridge of high pressure is keeping the jet stream far north of North Carolina, blocking any cooler air from moving into the state, Maze said.

"The ridge will only build and strengthen, so next week could actually be hotter than what we're experiencing right now," he said.

Daily highs should stay in the mid- to upper 70s or low 80s for much of the next week.

"It’s time to take the grill cover off and get out there and cook some steaks," said Paul Kellum, general manager of The Meat House, noting that Hambright isn't the only person looking to cook outside.

"Most people don’t like to stand around in the cold and play with their food in the backyard," Kellum said. "They love the fact that they can (now) get out and relax and have a glass of wine or a beer and enjoy themselves while they cook."

Cisco Ortiz of Performance Bicycle said people also are looking to get more outdoors exercise as the days grow longer and warmer.

"A lot of people are excited about the weather getting warm, so they are coming in and getting their bikes tuned up," Ortiz said.

Barry Thompson said he was taking advantage of the sunny day to do some outdoor cleaning and spend time with his dog.

"You can do more outside things like washing your own car and having more fun with your animals," Thompson said.

Even with the high unusually high temperatures, low humidity levels make it comfortable outside, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

"As long as the dew-point stays fairly low, it won't feel so muggy," Gardner said.

Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms could make their way to the area Friday afternoon and Saturday.

Weekend highs will be in the 70s, and overnight lows will remain in the 50s through the next week.

"I’m much happier (because of the weather)," Hambright said. "I have more energy. I'm ready to get outside and go do stuff."