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Will New Year’s bring end to our endless summer?


The record-breaking heat wave that lasted through all of December finally seems about to break, but in the meantime, summer temperatures through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays have been  good for local business.

Restaurants were full, and even though the unusual warmth hung around well into the evenings, al fresco diners didn’t seem to mind.  There was a rare Christmas full moon rising over the ocean, and a cool sea breeze to enjoy at beachside eateries.

The beaches were crowded over the Christmas weekend, by Vero standards anyway, and no one complained about the heat wave. A couple from Canada having lunch on the outside patio at Cobalt said they just love it here. “Heat at Christmastime? It’s just great.”

Not everyone, of course, was happy. “83 degrees on Christmas is just WRONG!” said Catherine Anne Faust. “My 16-year-old daughter wants to go over to her grandma’s house, turn the a/c way down to make it colder and light a fire in the fireplace to toast marshmallows.”

For those who thought it was just too hot for doing anything outdoors, there was always the movies. Local theaters were packed over the weekend, with the new Star Wars movie the leading attraction.

Of course it was unseasonably warm all up and down the East Coast at the same time. Some worried that if it stays warm up North much longer, snowbirds might not migrate in their usual numbers this season.

“I’ve been discussing the warmer weather with our sales group, because we might see business slow if it doesn’t cool down up North,” said Duncan Clements, General Manager of Vero Beach Hotel & Spa. “The warm weather could keep some of our snowbird friends up North longer. Hopefully the warm weather changes in January and February. Fortunately, I hear there’s some snow headed for the Northeast.

“We’ve had a very good December,” Clements added. “We’ve had no problem with outside dining, though some nights it was too warm for our fire pits. But we’re lucky. Being right on the ocean, we get a nice breeze, which keeps things cooler.”

The Driftwood Resort was also happy about its December business, according to Assistant General Manager Amy Patton. “I’m sure if it was snowing up north, there’d be even more people here,” she said. “But we’re busy.”

At Waldo’s, Assistant General Manager Lee Olsen said that there was a one-hour wait for tables all day Sunday, and even after the holidays had ended, the wait Monday afternoon was still at least 45 minutes.

“It’s hot, but we get an awesome breeze. It’s putting money in my pocket. Sales are up, probably 5 or 6 percent from last year,” Olsen said. “I don’t think the warm weather has hurt the resort, either. I know they’re sold out through next week.

“The nice part about us is that, from now through the end of April, we have a hard-core group of time-share people on the property.”

Maggie O’Brien, marketing director at Costa d’Este, said her guests seem to “love” the heat.

“We’ve done a good deal of business on the beach, with people enjoying a new fire pit and a new lineup of seven different Florida-craft beers on tap at the cabana bar.

“We sold out over the weekend,” O’Brien added. “People are still enjoying their Florida winters. We get a great ocean breeze, so we’re experiencing the best of both worlds – the warm Florida sunshine and the cool ocean breezes.”

Scott Varricchio, Chef and Owner of Citrus Grillhouse, said only rainy weather can hurt him – heat never does.

He said that despite the unusual heat, diners still want to sit outside overlooking the ocean on the deck that is equipped with heaters, fans, wind protection and rain shields for all eventualities.

“When the full moon rose last week, everyone wanted to be out on the veranda to see it and take pictures,” Varricchio said. “Compared to last year, business has been the same or a little bit better. But if the warm weather hangs around up north, we might not see as many people after the holidays.”

It looked like the heat wave might finally come to an end this weekend, with high temperatures forecast to be only in the mid-60s by Saturday – about 20 degrees cooler than most December days.

The month of December was the warmest on record and saw Vero Beach set or tie eight temperature records. The warmest day was Dec. 17 when the temperature hit 87 degrees.

Many of the records were new early-morning lows. The low for last Saturday morning, for example, was 72 degrees, which was higher than any previous low temperature recorded for the date. And on Christmas Day Friday, the low was an even balmier 75 degrees, another record, beating the previous mark of 71.

The long-range forecast for January predicts that temperatures will be near normal for this time of the year.