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Conditions that spawned killer tornadoes were a boon for N.J.

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A helleborus niger, or Christmas rose, sticks up almost alone on Wednesday at a rocky outcropping in the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, where plants are springing up about a month early.

The freakishly warm winter may have played a role in the ferocity of the early-season tornado outbreaks last week.

But the conditions that led to that severe weather were a help here.

David A. Robinson, the state climatologist at Rutgers University, said the storms of last week gave good rains to New Jersey, parched after a dry February. That has helped cut back on the brush fire risk, he said.

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