Warming up to spring

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LEWISTON – It feels like nature’s April Fools’ Day joke.

On the last day of March – a workday – temperatures hovered around 70 degrees. Few clouds dotted a blue sky. Sun drenched and warm, ice melted from Lake Auburn.

It was the last beautiful day of a record-setting month.

And this weekend?

“We think we’re getting rain,” said Art Lester, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The fourth-driest March since 1874, the area saw just over an inch of precipitation last month, according to the National Weather Service. Portland had its longest March dry spell ever – 16 days without rain or snow.

The month also proved warm, especially the last day. March 31 normally hovers around 47 degrees.

Lewiston hit 70.

“The chances of snow are diminishing rapidly,” Lester said. “Spring is here. We’ll just ride it into summer.”

March also gave Lake Auburn its second-earliest melt since record-keeping began in 1836. But while the warm, dry weather may be a bonanza for boaters, it has proven bad news for firefighters.

The Maine Forest Service lists the region’s fire danger as “high.” Both Lewiston and Auburn stopped issuing burn permits days ago.

The Lewiston Fire Department spent Thursday chasing grass and brush fires. It now sends two trucks to every call because even the smallest fires have spread quickly.

Fire officials caution homeowners not to burn brush and not to place piles of dry clippings near their homes. Such warnings are common in spring, but not until mid-April.

“It’s unusual this early. We now need almost a whole day of a nice, soft rain,” said Lewiston Fire Capt. Larry Morin. “We need a soaking.”

That soaking likely won’t come soon in April. Weather forecasters are predicting rain today and Monday, but mostly showers.

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