Phoenix • With much of the Northeast gripped by snow and ice storms, the Southwest is riding a record heat wave that sent people to beaches and golf courses in droves Friday.
People in Phoenix and Southern California were sunning themselves in 80-degree weather, with forecasters predicting more of the same through the weekend.
Both areas are known for warm weather, but the National Weather Service said the temperatures are uncharacteristically high for this time of year. The heat is the result of a high-pressure system off the coast of Southern California.
In the Phoenix, the many Midwestern retirees and visitors who flock to the desert each winter were thrilled about the 80-degree days — and not being in the miserable cold back home.
Rocky Krizan, a Chisago City, Minn., retiree who spends his winters in the Phoenix area, said his daughter and two grandchildren just arrived from Minnesota and were stunned by the difference.
"When they left there at 5 o’clock in the morning, it was minus 24. That’s actual temperature and wind chill," he said.
By 11 a.m. in Phoenix, they were at the pool in mid-70s temperatures.
Frigid cold has paralyzed the East Coast and left more than 1 million homes in the South without power. At least 21 deaths have been blamed on the treacherous weather, including that of pregnant woman struck by a mini-snowplow in a New York City parking lot.
In the Southwest, the weather service says several cities in Arizona may break February records during the Presidents Day weekend. Phoenix is expected to reach 87 on Saturday and 85 on Sunday. Both would be new highs for those dates.
In Tucson, the mercury is expected to hit 89. In southwest Arizona, Yuma is expected to reach 90 Friday and 91 on Saturday.
"When high pressure is stationary for long periods of time, it leads to warming temps and clear-sky days. We don’t have any weather disturbances coming through to disturb that," said Charlotte Dewey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Phoenix.
Southern California was awash Friday in summery conditions under warm, clear skies after a week of record-setting temperatures caused by a high-pressure front.
Temperatures hit the 80s in inland areas, and at least one community, Saugus, simmered at 90 at midday. Beachgoers found plenty of sunshine but much less warmth as highs along the immediate coast ranged only from the 60s to low 70s.
The National Weather Service predicted a general cooling of Southern California temperatures by Saturday.
Meanwhile, locals and visitors have been taking advantage of the weather around metropolitan Phoenix. Tim Ramos, head golf professional at the Continental Golf Club in Scottsdale, said the course was busy Friday. But he added that the near 90-degree weather outside may have scared off a few people.
"People who come down from Nebraska to get away from 2 degrees don’t come here for 90. They come here for 75 and 80," Ramos said.
Norman Lansden Jr., 62, originally from St. Louis, spent the day golfing out at Encanto Golf Course in Phoenix.
"It’s 80 degrees here. I can walk around in short sleeves and even short pants if I chose to," Lansden said while enjoying a day on the putting green. "If I was back in St. Louis, I would have on probably two pairs of long johns."
The Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden was already seeing people trek in Friday morning for an outdoor glass art exhibit. The crowd is also partly drawn to the garden by the warm weather, spokesman John Sallot said.
"If it was 60 degree and cloudy, we probably wouldn’t see so many people. As soon as it’s 90 degrees or less, people are here. We like that good window of weather," Sallot said.
Organizers of outdoor events have been using the weather as a selling point. The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, which is putting on a beer festival Saturday at a Phoenix park, has already sold nearly 4,000 of 5,000 available tickets.
"We’ve seen a spike in ticket sales the past two days, and I think it’s directly related to the weather and people wanting to do something outside," said Tiffany Shultz, an organizer.
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