Winter Storm Threat Evolves as Extreme Cold Eases in South, East

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
February 01, 2014; 2:30 AM
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Play video Weather Expert Bernie Rayno discusses the storms on the table for next week.

There is good news for folks hoping for a little break on heating bills and hoping to clean up the ice and snow that has accumulated in the Midwest, East and South. However, the pattern change may eventually evolve into storms that bring heavy precipitation.

For a large part of the eastern two-thirds of the nation, the severe cold will ease up and temperatures will climb to average or above-average levels during the first few days of February.

The most notable warmup will be in the South.

Temperatures will trend upward through the 50s and 60s late this week and are forecast to reach the 70s in portions of Texas and Louisiana this weekend.

From the Ohio Valley to the mid-Atlantic, temperatures will bounce back into the 30s and 40s as early as Friday. It may feel like springtime, almost. Temperatures at Punxsutawney, Pa., first thing Sunday morning look to be close to the freezing mark with a cloudy to partly cloudy sky.

A couple hundred miles farther east on Sunday at East Rutherford, N.J., football fans can expect temperatures to fall into the 30s in the evening, after rising to near 50 F during the afternoon. The region appears as though it will be in between two storm systems Sunday evening with some cloud cover, and the chance of a rain shower.

For folks who have trouble coping with the cold and who have been pent up in recent weeks, the break will provide an opportunity to get out of the house. Vehicles will be easier to start, and garage doors may open without the strange noises.

The northeastern third of the nation will backtrack toward colder weather around mid-month but not to the extreme of January. Since average temperatures trend upward during February the second half of the month will likely bring the greatest temperature departures relative to normal.

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The pattern change marks an end to the train of Alberta Clipper storms that have helped to usher in the waves of bitterly cold air, ground blizzards over the North Central states and the snow almost every day in some locations.

The new pattern moving forward through February will still offer cold air, just not quite as extreme over a large area as that of the last several weeks.

However, the pattern will not be without storm systems.

With moisture and storms beginning to move in from the Pacific Ocean, some of the storms will take a southward dip toward the Gulf of Mexico, where they will grab more moisture.

While there will be more separation between precipitation events, the upcoming pattern into February looks to be rather stormy at times. Episodes of rain and thunder will visit the south with rounds of snow, ice and rain from the central Plains to the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic and periods of snow over the northern tier states.

The series of storms is forecast to begin this weekend. These will pose forecast challenges related to timing and position of the areas of snow versus wintry mix versus rain. Along the northern and western fringes of these storms will be issues with slippery travel and travel delays.

The first two systems appear to be rather weak, but they can spread a swath of precipitation from the lower Mississippi Valley and the southern Plains to the Northeast Friday into Monday.

A swath of moderate to heavy snow is forecast during the first storm Friday and Saturday reaching from northern Missouri and southeastern Iowa through Chicago and Detroit and then on to Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario, and Montreal and Quebec City, Quebec. Light snow and a wintry mix will affect northern upstate New York and northern New England. Expect significant travel delays from this storm in the Midwest and in part of southern Canada.

One of the larger of the storms could bring substantial precipitation and widespread travel disruptions from eastern Texas to New England spanning next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The track and coverage of precipitation on the storm for the middle of next week is subject to change.

The storm during the middle of next week may bring a dose of drenching rain and locally strong thunderstorms to the South. On the northern and western fringe of the storm, snow and a wintry mix would fall with the potential for a heavy accumulation in part of the Midwest and Northeast.

Another large storm may or may not materialize for the second weekend of February.

AccuWeather.com has released its spring forecast outlook. The nation will have to wait a bit to hear what Punxsutawney Phil has to say.

While temperatures will get above freezing during the day in the pattern, ice can form on areas that were previously wet at night. Folks in the South should continue to exercise caution the next few days until all of the snow and ice from the recent storm has gone away.

The recent extreme cold has allow ice to build up on area rivers in the north and ice flows will be monitored closely. However, the thaw should be gradual and slight enough in most cases to avoid major ice jams, at least in the short term.

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