updated 4/16/2007 4:28:36 PM ET 2007-04-16T20:28:36

Americans slogging through the chill winds and rain may remember March fondly: it was second warmest on record for the country.

March was more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average for the 48 contiguous states, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday.

And for the planet as a whole it was the fifth warmest March on record, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Rain and snowfall were above average in the nation's center for the month, while it was dry in the West and Southeast.

The climate center said the average temperature for March was 48.1 degrees Fahrenheit in the U.S., 5.6 degrees warmer than usual for the month. Only March, 1910, was warmer.

According to the agency, readings much warmer than average were recorded from parts of the Midwest and Deep South to the Northern Plains and West Coast. Most Northeast states and Florida were near average, while no contiguous U.S. state was cooler than average for the month. The month tied for the warmest on record for Oklahoma.

More than 2,500 daily record-high temperatures were set from the East to the West Coast during the month. On March 13, more than 250 local high temperature records were set.

The earliest high of 90 degrees occurred in Las Vegas that day.

The agency added that a severe drought stretched from southeastern Mississippi to northwest Georgia and Tennessee and also affected southern Florida at the end of the month.

And the combination of unusual warmth and below-average snowfall during much of the month led to a continued deterioration of mountain snowpack conditions in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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