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    The Long Countdown to Spring Begins With Snow and More Cold

    2/03/2014, 7:18:04 AM

    Monday, 11:55 a.m.

    Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow Sunday morning. According to folklore, that means six more weeks of winter lie ahead. That is only to be expected, as there are still 45 days left until astronomical spring begins with the vernal equinox. But it's almost as if he had some inside information, or was given some advanced forecasts, because there is really no sign of winter releasing its grip on the country any time soon.

    With Groundhog Day in our rear view mirror, and before I get into the meat of today's discussion, let me first present you with my annul 'Countdown to Spring', a post that never gets old for me as I seek the longer days and warmth of spring and summer. These dates or markers may mean little or even nothing to you, but they are ways for me to focus on what to me (and from what I'm gathering, many of you concur) on that warmth as a means of getting me through the long, cold days of winter. Feel free to pooh-pooh any or all of them, or embrace them and add to them! It is my list, but I'm willing to consider additions and subtractions!

    Feb. 2 - Groundhog Day Feb. 3-4 - Halfway point of winter/end of Solar Winter (quarter of the year with lowest sun angles) Feb. 10 - Approximately the same sun angle as Oct. 31 - a time that still seems mild to me! Feb. 12 - (for most) 'Pitchers and Catchers Report' - best four words in the English language! Feb. 23 - (late this year) Daytona 500 March 1 - End of meteorological winter/start of meteorological spring March 9 - Switch to Daylight Saving Time March 20 - Astronomical Spring begins 12:57 p.m. EDT March 31/April 1 - Opening Day of baseball

    The two baseball dates are somewhat artificial, in the sense that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks open camps this weekend in anticipation of their early Opening Day series in Japan. Anyway, those dates now are my markers that help me mentally get through days when I'm forced inside on my trainer, or look longingly out the window at cloudy, windy, cold days with all sorts of slop on the roads. Spring is coming, one way or another.

    Getting there, though, isn't going to be easy. In one of my posts late last week, I likened the weather over the weekend to that of halftime, where we've seen a lot of the bitter cold and some snow through the first half. There's more cold kicking off the second half, but there's also a lot more storminess, especially this week.

    The first of these storms is really two weaker waves of low pressure, with one slipping off the northern North Carolina coast, and the second back over northwestern North Carolina:

    The cold air north of the storm has been bleeding southward slowly. In fact, it was incredibly warm for early February around the mid-Atlantic states and into southern New England, even hours before the start of the storm. The rain-snow line has moved into extreme northern Delaware, and will inch southward this afternoon, while at the same time the precipitation will come to an end from west to east fairly rapidly. Where it has been snowing this morning, it has really piled up, with many places now in excess of 6 inches in southeastern Pennsylvania and adjoining areas of New Jersey. Southeastern New York, including Long Island, and southern sections of Connecticut and Rhode Island will approach 6 inches, before it's all over this evening.

    This first storm is just the opening drive of what should be a busy week of storminess. The second one will develop on the southern Plains late tonight and tomorrow. Look at the 12z Feb. 3 NAM 500 mb forecast for 12z tomorrow:

    The southwest flow aloft will carry Pacific moisture over Mexico into Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley, while surface winds while south to southeast winds at and near the surface bring a lot of Gulf moisture to bear. This will result in a widespread rain with some embedded thunderstorms over central and East Texas to Louisiana and Arkansas. Some of these thunderstorms will become severe in the Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee Valley later tomorrow and tomorrow night.

    At the same time, there will be plenty of moisture thrown into the much colder air across the central Plains, resulting in snow. The storm will track to the east-northeast tomorrow night, reaching the eastern Ohio/western Pennsylvania/West Virginia panhandle area by Wednesday morning. Here's the latest RGEM surface forecast and precipitation:

    The GFS, it should be noted, is flatter than the NAM and RGEM models at 12z, which means the rain/snow line, or the snow/ice line, would be farther south. Where it is all snow, this will be a significant snow storm. Here's the initial snowfall forecast here at AccuWeather.com for areas west of the Appalachians:

    Extending this into the East, and keeping in mind that all snow vs. mixed precipitation line is not yet etched in stone:

    Along and especially south and east of the I-95 corridor, this will largely be a rain event, much more so that this current storm.

    As the storm exits, the cold air pushes farther south and east. Look at the 6z Feb. 3 GFS ensemble temperature forecasts for Thursday:

    There will at least be a break in the storminess after Wednesday's storm exits - for a couple of days. By Saturday rain will be breaking out across the south, but as a bigger system comes through the Rockies, low pressure will become better organized over the western Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley, a storm that will pull colder air into it from the north and northwest, result in a wide swath of snow. What is still uncertain is the eventual timing and path of the storm. There are some indications it will be farther south, and that it will move a little more slowly. That may mean the potential for much more snow in the long run. But that's to be dealt with in more detail from midweek on once this next storm is fading into the history books.

    The countdown to spring may be on, but don't tell winter that!

    The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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