OMAHA, Neb. — A warm front swept through spring-like weather across a large swath of the country on Sunday in what is typically one of the coldest months of the year, forcing people from their homes to enjoy the rare winter respite but also increasing the danger. of forest fires.

In Omaha, Nebraska, the temperature on Sunday topped 65 degrees (18.3 degrees Celsius) on a day when the average high temperature hovers around the freezing mark, according to the National Weather Service.

“Omaha is having the second warmest February on record in its 154-year history of weather tracking,” National Weather Service meteorologist Michaela Wood said Sunday. “And there is a chance to break the record tomorrow, when the maximum temperature will be around 80 degrees.”

The sunny heat brought Stacy Lawson and her husband, Hugh Lawson, of Omaha, outside to play a game of pickleball with friends. But they were not the only ones.

“Outdoor courts are a great place when it’s hot,” Stacy Lawson said. “The first one we tried was already full.”

The Lawsons and their competitors, Tim and Andrea Driscoll, had a hard time remembering the last year they were able to play outdoors in February.

“In Nebraska, February is the shortest and longest month of the year,” said Tim Driscoll, impassively.

While the warmer than usual temperatures may have provided a break from harsh winter conditions, it didn’t come without some concerns. The National Weather Service cited the heat, along with low humidity, winds gusting over 35 mph (56 kph) in some places and dry winter vegetation in issuing fire danger alerts for an area stretching to across 11 states.

Red flag warnings and fire watches were issued in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and eastern Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. Nearby states, including parts of Arkansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin, received hazardous weather forecasts due to increased fire danger, according to weather service maps.

A grass fire fanned by strong winds closed Interstate 25 near the Colorado-Wyoming border for about an hour Saturday before being extinguished, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The unusually early heat wave could portend trouble ahead, Wood said. The Climate Prediction Center says there is a high probability of higher than normal temperatures and lower than normal rainfall in the region through the end of summer.

“If we continue on this trend, we could experience drought again, and that would be a big concern, especially when it comes to fire risk,” he said.

Temperatures reached the 60s in Denver, Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday, and Kansas City, Missouri, recorded temperatures in the mid-70s. The unusually warm conditions caused many people to go outdoors to play in local parks, wash their cars and even get an early start on lawn care.

In Chicago, people who would normally wear winter clothing to battle the city’s famous winter winds frolicked along the shores of Lake Michigan in light jackets or even shorts and T-shirts.

Bethany Scheiner, 53, took advantage of the weather to head with her 14-year-old son to Lincoln Park in Chicago to practice her soccer punting skills.

“It’s so unusual,” Scheiner said of the warm weather. “I mean, this is the month we all go away to escape the Chicago winter.”

The warming is expected to cause some record temperatures on Monday, Wood said. But on Tuesday night, a cold front will send the region back into winter, with below-freezing wind chills and snow across much of the central part of the country on Wednesday.

By Sam