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Locals savor a taste of spring in February

Sunday was a great day to hit the beach.

Yes, we're talking Buffalo in February. But with sunny skies and the temperature rising to 48 degrees, Erin Schroeder and Sandy Marvin trekked down to the sand at Erie Basin Marina to collect driftwood they use to create crafts.

"It beats shoveling," Schroeder said.

That was a popular sentiment around town on Sunday. Winter doesn't technically end for a few more weeks, but we know a reprieve when we see one and seize the moment: pushing baby strollers, riding bikes and strolling along the waterfront. If the groundhog's prediction seemed ridiculous, no one was complaining.

Delaware Park had the feel of a spring or summer weekend. Runners and walkers, some in shorts, filled the Ring Road. The basketball courts were going full tilt. Cars packed the zoo's parking lot. And a soccer game was underway.

Jack Walters and his son, Brian, were swinging clubs on the park's golf course. The Grand Island residents had checked the forecast on Saturday and made plans to get in a round on Sunday. No snow or ice to contend with, just soft ground.

"There's some good groups out here having, some of them making some nice shots," Jack Walters said.

Behind the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Ron Morrison of Derby wore headphones as he swept a metal detector over the ground, hunting for buried treasure. He had unearthed a couple of 1946 silver dimes, from about 6 inches below.

"Anytime in February you can do this, it's something you usually don't get to enjoy," he said.

The conditions were nothing like the challenge winter typically brings, Morrison said. "You've got to pierce through the frozen ground usually." Last week at South Park, he found a silver dollar from 1883.

The sun sets behind the Buffalo Lighthouse along the Buffalo River on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Over at LaSalle Park, the swimming pool wasn't open – let's not get carried away here – but skateboarders rolled through the skate park.

Andrew Napier sometimes comes to park in February, depending on the conditions. "If it's wet, then you can't skate."

That wasn't a problem on Sunday. "It's Buffalo, so you really don't know – it could be snowing next week," Napier said. "So let's just take it when you can."

Raymond Morales had already been out skateboarding for  more than a couple of hours. "If you keep skating, you're going to be warm, you're not going to get too cold," he said.

Buffalo's average for Sunday was 34 degrees, so even if the temperature wasn't a record high, it was still exceptionally warm, said Jim Mitchell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"The jet stream is to the north, so it's bottling up all the cold air, keeping it in Canada," he said. "We have no way to get that air down here right now."

Monday's forecast called for temperatures in the lower 40s, but still sunny skies. The temperature will fall below freezing Monday night, before things start warming up again. Temperatures should stay in the 50s for much of this week.

How does this warm weather affect an industry that relies on a good dose of authentic winter?

"It's like spring, and we are packed," said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing at the Holiday Valley ski area in Ellicottville.

Eshbaugh noted it was a holiday weekend and the ski area had lots of trails open. Skiers had traveled there from places including Ontario, Ohio and Maryland.

"We were fortunate that we've had a good amount of natural snow this year, and we make snow at every chance we can," she said. "Right now, we've got some stockpiled and we're ready for the week. I think by next weekend it's going to turn around again."

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