It’s election day in Illinois, and the hottest topic in the Land of Lincoln will -- I can forecast with complete confidence -- be totally ignored by the GOP challengers.
That would be ... the weather. Today may mark the seventh straight day of 80 degree temperatures at O’Hare, something that’s never happened before in March. Or in April, for that matter. "It is extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year-long periods of records to break records day after day after day," the local office of the National Weather Service said in a statement Sunday morning, following a Saint Patrick's Day that shattered 141 years of records.
And the Windy City is not alone. In International Falls, Minn., which threatened suit when a Colorado city tried to steal its “Nation’s Icebox” moniker, the mercury went to 77 degrees on Saturday -- which was 42 degrees above average, and 22 degrees above the old record. It’s possible, according to weather historian Christopher Burt, that no station with a century of weather data has ever broken a mark by that much.
Here’s how Jeff Masters, founder of the website WeatherUnderground and probably the internet’s most widely read meteorologist, put it from his Michigan base: “As I stepped out of my front door into the pre-dawn darkness from my home I braced myself for the cold shock of a mid-March morning. It didn't come. A warm, murky atmosphere, with temperatures in the upper fifties -- 30 degrees above normal --greeted me instead. Continuous flashes of heat lightning lit up the horizon, as the atmosphere crackled with the energy of distant thunderstorms. I looked up at the hazy stars above me, flashing in and out of sight as lightning lit up the sky, and thought, this is not the atmosphere I grew up with."
Indeed -- later in the day an F-3 tornado wrecked a swath of homes and businesses just west of Ann Arbor, the earliest such storm Michigan has ever seen. “Never before has such an extended period of extreme and record-breaking warm temperatures affected such a large portion of the U.S. in March, going back to the beginning of record keeping in the late 1800s,” Masters wrote.