While the weather has finally calmed down across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country this week, a look at the longer range suggests that many residents may be in for a wild spring.
Wintry events that last into April across the northern tier of the nation and an above-normal severe weather season farther south are some of the main highlights in AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi's outlook for the next few months.
To sum it up, Bastardi said, "This spring should be a wilder one than last year."
Winter May Keep Delivering Punches into April
For the late-season wintry events and cold shots, Bastardi and other AccuWeather.com long-range forecasters are pointing to areas north of Interstate 70 from the Plains into the East and north of I-40 in the West.
The West is shifting into a much colder, stormier weather pattern, which is expected to persist into March.
Occasionally, that cold air in the West will break out farther east across the country with areas north of I-70 being the main targets. The air may be cold enough to allow wintry precipitation to fall, if the timing is right, into April.
For residents in the East who experienced a remarkably warm March and April last year, this will be a major change this spring.
On a positive note, for people who are sick of winter, it appears that the persistence of colder-than-normal conditions across much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation since December is over.
Even the areas north of I-70, where opportunities for cold shots will be highest through April, will experience a bigger variation in temperatures with more frequent warm-ups between the cold spells.
In fact, AccuWeather.com Long Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok says that more warm than cold is expected in the Northeast as temperatures alternate back and forth into early March.
It's from late March into early April that AccuWeather.com long-range forecasters are concerned about a two- to three-week period of colder-than-normal conditions from the Plains into the East.
Active Severe Weather Season Predicted
The other major concern in the longer range is the potential for the severe weather season this spring to be more active than normal. This means there could be more severe thunderstorms and tornadoes than average.
It's the contrast between the colder air that will occasionally be invading the northern tier of the nation and the warm air expected to be dominant in the South that has AccuWeather.com long-range forecasters concerned.
Where the warmer air to the south clashes with the colder air to the north is the zone where severe weather will be focused.
According to Bastardi, this zone will most likely span from the southern Plains (east of I-35 and I-45) into the Southeast and Ohio Valley.
Severe weather season usually starts ramping up across the Gulf Coast states late February into March and shifts northward across the Plains and East in the months that follow through summer.
The peak in tornado season typically doesn't happen until April or May for much of the Plains, Midwest and Southeast.
Some AccuWeather.com meteorologists have also pointed out that the severe weather season may get off to a late start this year, due to the fact that sea surface temperatures across the Gulf of Mexico are below normal.
Winter generally over for South
Above-normal warmth has replaced the extreme cold that gripped the South a good part of December and January.
Overall, AccuWeather.com long-range forecasters think temperatures will average out above normal in the coming months across the region. Pastelok said, "The one key [with the long-range forecast] is the South, where I think the extremes of cold are gone."
However, Bastardi is still warning that the threat of one more prolonged period of cold late in the season is a concern into April.
He says this may be a "mini version" of the extreme cold that gripped Texas the first two weeks of February.