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February outlook: Storms with heavy snow, rain and severe weather may eye central and eastern US

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After a lull in storm intensity to end January, there is the potential for a return of bigger, more disruptive storms in the central and eastern United States as February progresses.

"The overall weather pattern will favor at least two substantial storms to spring up from either the Gulf of Mexico or the southern Plains and travel northeastward during the period from Feb. 4-10," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

The storms are likely to cause a large area of travel problems and disruptions to daily activities as they move along.

The storms will develop and travel along a strong temperature contrast zone with a return of warmth in the South and waves of cold air across the Northern states.

NewJets Feb4-10

With this sort of path, the storms can grab moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and deposit it in the form of heavy snow, ice or rain.

The amount of cold air in the storm's way is what will determine which form the precipitation takes in the Northern states.

How heavy the precipitation is and the formation and coverage of severe weather in the South will depend on the intensity of the storm systems.

"At this early stage, it looks the first storm will likely occur between Feb. 4 and 6," Pastelok said. "The storm could behave similar to most storms thus far this winter with rain for the immediate Atlantic coast but snow or a wintry mix farther inland."

The first storm is most likely to take a path toward the Great Lakes for a time, which could mean another dose of heavy snow for parts of the central Plains and the Upper Midwest.

The second storm may spring up and travel northeastward between Feb. 8 and 10, tracking toward the mid-Atlantic.

"Since there may be a greater amount of fresh cold air in front of the second storm, it may be more likely to bring substantial snow and ice on the front end for the Ohio Valley and Interstate 95 corridor of the mid-Atlantic when compared to the first storm," Pastelok said.

As February progresses, storms will continue to follow the jet stream as it takes periodic dives southward over the eastern half of the country.

The jet stream is a fast river of air high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along.

Cold air, with temperatures typical of February, is expected to accompany storms into the central and eastern U.S. This will open the possibility for more snow or wintry precipitation.

However, prolonged stretches of cold weather are unlikely. Instead, temperatures are expected to be back and forth as storms roll through the eastern half of the country.