Friday’s remarkable warmth kicked off a holiday weekend that is likely to find Minnesotans enjoying the outdoors in ways they usually only pine for in February.
The day’s high of 63 smashed the previous Feb. 17 record of 55, and record highs are possible again Sunday and Monday. Even the nights will be unseasonably warm, with the mercury staying above the freezing mark right through next Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
Friday’s high was just one degree shy of breaking the highest temperature for the entire month of February — 64 degrees, set in 1896.
Last year on Feb. 17, the high was 29 degrees with a low of 14 degrees.
Temperatures of 60 degrees in February are rare. There have only been four days on record when the temperature has reached 60 or above in the second month of the year: 1896, 1921, 1981 and 2000.
The February heat wave, reminiscent of 1930 and 1981, when the Twin Cities saw six consecutive days of readings of 50 degrees or higher, prompted Ben Johnson to ride his bike to his job at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board offices. It was the earliest bike commute ever for him, he said.
Nick Schicker ditched his winter coat to sit outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where he works.
“I needed to get some vitamin D, so I decided to get outside,” he said.
Outdoor tables filled up fast at lunchtime at Psycho Suzi’s in northeast Minneapolis, where “we are celebrating the sun,” said Susan Martin, director of marketing.
The bar and restaurant was one of several places that hauled out patio furniture a month or more earlier than normal.
At Betty Danger’s Country Club, the mini-golf course opened. For the first time in memory, the popular establishment on Marshall Street wasn’t passing out blankets to those daring to take a midwinter ride on its colorful Ferris wheel bar.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Natural Resources and law enforcement officers reminded people that ice conditions near lake access points, shorelines and channels are deteriorating.
“I want to stress the importance of ice safety. Driving on the ice right now could be a life-threatening risk,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, noting that there have been no injuries thus far this year because of people or vehicles going through the ice.
Owners of fish houses in southern Minnesota have until March 6 to get them off the lakes, a deadline set by law, said the DNR’s Julie Forster. Local sheriff’s offices are able to prohibit or restrict the use of motorized vehicles on all or a portion of the body of water if there are concerns with conditions, she said.
Visitors planning a trip to the ice castle in downtown Stillwater will have to wait until next year after officials closed the destination spot for the season.
But the spring temperature could revive some vampires. Mike McLean, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, said that the sudden warmth could help mosquitoes that can survive winter come out of hibernation.
Minnesotans might not want to ditch their scarves and mittens just yet. The National Weather Service is monitoring a low-pressure system that could bring much more wintry weather to the region next weekend, starting Thursday.
For now, it’s too early to tell how much rain or snow the system might bring, said Weather Service meteorologist Alli Keclik.