PHOENIX — With much of the Northeast gripped by snow and ice storms, the Southwest is riding a record heat wave that sent people to beaches and golf courses in droves Friday.
People in Phoenix and Southern California were sunning themselves in 80-degree weather, with forecasters predicting more of the same through the weekend.
Both areas are known for warm weather, but the National Weather Service said the temperatures are uncharacteristically hot for this time of year. The heat is the result of a high-pressure system off the coast of Southern California.
In the Phoenix area, the many Midwestern retirees and visitors who flock to the desert each winter were thrilled about the 80-degree days — and not being in the miserable cold back home.
Rocky Krizan, a Chisago City, Minn., retiree who spends his winters in the Phoenix area, said his daughter and two grandchildren just arrived from Minnesota and were stunned by the difference.
"When they left there at 5 o'clock in the morning, it was minus 24. That's actual temperature and wind chill," he said.
By 11 a.m. in Phoenix, they were at the pool in mid-70s temperatures.
But not everyone in the region is celebrating the sunshine. The Southwest is in the throes of a severe drought that has seen cities like Phoenix go nearly two months without any noticeable precipitation, and farmers and managers of the region's water supply would gladly see a dose of heavy rain instead of the blue skies.
President Barack Obama visited California's Central Valley on Friday to meet with local leaders about a drought that is the state's worst in more than a century. The president announced about $173 million in federal financial aid to the state.
On the other side of the country, frigid cold has paralyzed the East Coast and left more than 1 million homes in the South without power. At least 21 deaths have been blamed on the treacherous weather, including that of pregnant woman struck by a mini-snowplow in a New York City parking lot.