With the first day of spring still 12 days away, the temperature in Portland climbed to 66 degrees on Wednesday, blowing past the record of 55 degrees set just four years ago.

Portland’s temperature peaked at 3:22 p.m., according to the National Weather Service office in Gray. Augusta also broke a record for March 9, hitting 64 degrees.

Warm temperatures spread throughout southern Maine by midafternoon, including 75 degrees in Sanford – the highest temperature recorded by the weather service in the state on Wednesday – 71 in Fryeburg, 70 in Lewiston and 62 in Auburn. Northern Maine stayed cooler, with temperatures at 56 degrees in Bangor, 46 in Bar Harbor and 36 in Caribou at 3 p.m.

Signs of an early spring abounded in the Portland area on Wednesday afternoon.

Only small patches of ice remained on the pond at Deering Oaks and players packed the nearby sand volleyball courts.

At Payson Park, the basketball courts were full and people were playing “skins versus shirts” without anyone getting cold.

On the nearby tennis courts, Jack Martin of Gorham and Lynn Allen of Buxton completed two sets without needing to wear sweatshirts, athletic pants or winter gloves.

“This is the best weather I can remember in March since I’ve been in Maine. We’ll take it,” said Martin, who moved to Maine from North Carolina 16 years ago.

Allen, a Maine native, said she can remember shoveling the snow off of the fields in order to get in early season softball practices.

“I’m a little rusty at tennis, but I feel pretty good,” she said.

Electronica music blared at the Eastern Promenade as parents brought their children to the playground.

In South Portland, a crowd of students celebrated the warm weather by a lining up at Red’s Dairy Freeze, which had opened for the season on March 2.

Recent Maine transplants P.J. Moon of North Carolina and Ollie Hewat of Colorado moved their band practice from inside to a log overlooking the Back Cove in Portland, where they strummed their acoustic guitars and sang their new song, “Tiptoe.”

The average high temperature for March 9 in Portland is 40 degrees and the low is 23 degrees.

On the same date last year, Portland was thawing out from a long winter. There were 20 inches of snow on the ground and the high temperature reached 44 degrees.

This year’s spring-like temperatures follow a historically mild winter. For the months of December, January and February, there were a total of 21 days with temperatures above 50 degrees in Portland – the most ever recorded, said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Gray. Weather service records go back to the 1940s.

Temperatures were up all across the Northeast, aided by a large band of warm air moving in from the southwest, Curtis said. Massachusetts and New Hampshire also experienced the “heat wave” with temperatures reaching 75 degrees in Boston and 76 in Manchester.

The mild temperatures were expected to stay through the week and into the weekend. Portland could reach at least 50 degrees each day between now and Sunday.

While Wednesday’s temperature was expected to break the record for March 9, it still fell well short of the record high for the month, 80 degrees on March 22, 2012. That was the earliest-ever occurrence of 80-degree temperatures in the city.

“We’re still early in the month this year, so who knows,” Curtis said.

Many local golf courses have taken advantage of the mild winter and unseasonably warm weather to open early.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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Twitter: @joelawlorph