Warm Temps Helping Thaw Out US Economy?

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In many areas across the U.S., people are exchanging their winter jackets for flip flops -- and for good reason.

It seems spring has arrived early. The unseasonably warm weather seems to be having an economic impact, and forecasters say it could be here to stay.

People are cautiously welcoming spring as the golf clubs are coming out, pool memberships are starting to sell, and city, state, and national parks are filling up.

"Just enjoying the nice weather this 70 degree day. A little bit breezy, but it's pretty nice out," Dave Mallet of Ankeny, Iowa, told a reporter.

The calendar says we still have one week left of winter; however, the weather forecast suggests otherwise.

**See the latest forecast for your area from the National Weather Service.

More than 230 high temperature records have been broken since Friday and more are expected to fall this week. The mild winter is doing wonders for the nation's economy.

"Because this year has been so mild, I have saved $600-$700 on my oil bill," said Anne Marie Bociek of Springfield, Mass.

It's that kind of savings that's prompting Americans to start spending. Retail sales are up 6.5 percent from more than a year ago.

Home remodel projects are being started early as well. Retailer Home Depot reports their profits are up 32 percent from last quarter.

"You could do more home improvements on your home. Repair the roof that you would have waited to do until spring," Diane Swonk, with Mesirow Financial, said. 

Some economists wonder if this early spending will turn out to be extra spending or if homeowners will back off after their spring chores are done.

The lack of cold weather could also hurt some of the nation's farmers. The warm temperatures are causing some fruit crops to bloom early.

"There's no way to get them to re-bloom if there is a frost event. So we have to hope for our site selection, keeping some apples on the hill side so we can have a crop regardless of the weather," explained Sara Ecker, Ecker Apple Farm crop manager.

Forecasters predict the warm temperatures will stick around through March. But it's not all sunshine and record-breaking temperatures for everyone.

A strong storm dumped up to eight inches of snow on the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

It's the biggest coastal storm the area has seen in the month of March since 1951.

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