Boots and parkas came off Wednesday as a freakishly warm February day broke records and lured winter-weary Mainers to beaches, restaurant patios and ice cream shops.

Portland reached 68 degrees at 2:39 p.m. That crushed the 65-year-old record for Feb. 21 – 59 degrees, recorded in 1953.

But it also set a new all-time record high for the entire month of February. The previous record was 64 degrees, set on Feb. 26, 1957.

High temperatures climbed past 70 degrees Wednesday afternoon in southern interior Maine. It was 74 degrees in Sanford at 4:30 p.m.

For many Mainers, that’s beach weather, no matter what the calendar says. People came out to play and sit on the sand at Pine Point and Higgins beaches in Scarborough, where children stuck their toes in the water and teenagers on winter break from school took off their shoes and shirts and tossed a Frisbee.

As the sun came out, restaurants and breweries opened their patios for an unexpected taste of al fresco dining.

“It’s definitely busier than your average Wednesday day in February,” said Kit Paschal, general manager of The Shop, an oyster bar and store on Washington Avenue in Portland.

A group of four came into The Shop just as it opened at noon. By 3 p.m., the warmest part of the day, more than a dozen people had stopped by the patio.

“Warm weather, oysters and cold beer and wine – it’s like people are preprogrammed to enjoy that,” Paschal said. “As soon as the warm weather hits, they gravitate here.”

Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland shared a photo on its Facebook page of a family from Windham enjoying a beer at a picnic table.

“The warm weather is here today and gone tomorrow, so leave the office and come now!” the post reads.

It certainly felt like summer at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook. The cross country ski trails were closed because of the weather, but the farm was promoting its ice cream shop on social media.

“Time to fill up those empty cones,” a post on the Smiling Hill Farm Facebook page read.

In the farm office, Warren Knight said activities with llamas and other animals have been a hit during school vacation week. Those events draw visitors to the farm even when they can’t ski or showshoe, he said. Many guests are also buying lunch – and on Wednesday, ice cream.

“Normally, we wouldn’t be selling much ice cream on a February day,” he said. “But today is different.”

Many gravitated to the Portland waterfront, or even got out on the water.

Alison Goodwin of Peaks Island enjoyed the warm breeze aboard the Machigonne II ferry in Casco Bay. But she also had mixed feelings about the heat.

“Scary. Bizarre,” she said. “But you know what? We’ll take it right now. But I do worry.”

According to statistics compiled by the Associated Press, unseasonably warm weather smashed temperature records across southern New England on Wednesday. The National Weather Service said the temperature in Hartford, Connecticut, climbed to 74 degrees. That broke the city’s record for highest temperature recorded in the month of February. The previous all-time high was 73, recorded on Feb. 24, 1985.

The temperature in Boston climbed to 64 degrees late Wednesday morning, breaking the previous record for Feb. 21 of 63 set in 1906. Providence, Rhode Island, also hit 64, breaking the record for the day of 63. Both previous records were set in 1930. Worcester, Massachusetts’ former record of 59 set in 1930 also was smashed, meteorologists said.

Wednesday’s warmth will be a memory by Thursday, when temperatures will be about 30 degrees lower.

Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, said a weak cold front will come through Wednesday night bringing Maine back to normal temperatures for this time of year. The highs in Portland on Thursday are expected to be in the upper 30s.

“It’s only February,” he said.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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