When Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his den and saw his shadow this past February 2nd, he sentenced us to six more weeks of winter. (Or so the tradition goes.) And as people all over the country now well know, Phil wasn’t kidding: Since Groundhog Day, many regions have been walloped with snow. And it’s not over yet, either, according to more scientific (translation: non-marmot) predictions. Here’s a closer look at recent weather phenomena, along with what meteorologists say is in store for spring.
Winter got off to a slow start, but when it finally showed up in mid-December, it hung around. As of mid-February, according to The Weather Channel, more than 16 winter storms had been named in the US—many of them happening within the past few weeks alone. The late winter barrage started with Winter Storm Maya (February 5-7), which buried parts of Montana under 62.5 inches of snow, slammed the Pacific Northwest, dislodged landslides in the Portland area, and left 100,000 people without power. Maya’s effects were also felt in Minneapolis as freezing drizzle and in New England and upstate New York as snow and ice.
On Maya’s heels came Winter Storm Niko (February 7-9), which caused extreme snowfall—at rates of up to 4 inches per hour—from New York through southern New England. Parts of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, meanwhile, experienced Niko-related thunderstorms.
Winter Storm Orson (February 10-13) followed just one day later, with snowfalls topping out at 40 inches in areas of Maine as well as impacting the rest of New England and upstate New York, too.
Looking ahead to spring, forecasters anticipate that March will indeed live up to the adage—at least in part—and “come in like a lion.” But it may go out like a lion, as well—at least in the Northeast and Midwest. According to Accuweather, “From coast to coast, cold air will maintain its grip across the northern tier of the country. Meanwhile, rain, thunderstorms and severe weather will threaten to kick off further south, leading to a volatile season for many.”
Expected to see a significant precipitation in the form of both rain and even snow this spring? The I-95 corridor spanning from Philadelphia to Boston. So how long will this region have to wait for spring-like weather? Reports AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok, “As far as a significant warmup goes in the Northeast, I think you have to hold off until late April and May.”
The Midwest will also still be feeling the chill well into spring, according to Pastelok: “It seems like all the cold, and all the snow has been really piling up across that area, and it’s going to be no different going into the early spring.” Factor in the significant snowpack and forecasters say the warmup is likely to be even further delayed.
Even warmer regions are in for nasty weather this spring, with thunderstorms expected to “dominate” the southeastern states, while “explosive severe weather” is predicted for the Plains states in March—again, attributed to winter’s slow retreat. Says Pastelok, “If it’s slow to move out, which is typical of a weak La Niña season, you’re going to get more explosive systems, more severe weather and that’s a good possibility in the southern Plains this year.” Even worse? When the thaw finally does arrive, meteorologists caution that “fast, rapid warmups” are likely to lead to significant flooding.
And while the Northwest and northern California are predicted to have a rainy, snowy spring, southern Californians have something else to worry about: flooding due to seasonal rainfall totals more than twice the average.