Damaging thunderstorms will rumble to life

Unlike the first quick-hitting storm, the storm arriving early next week will create hazards beyond snow. Cold air trailing behind the wide-reaching storm’s cold front will clash with warm, moist air in place over the South and produce severe thunderstorms Sunday and Monday.

The risk on Sunday will affect areas from Texas through Kansas. Damaging thunderstorms are expected to fire up late Sunday afternoon from central Texas to central Kansas and track slowly eastward through the evening.

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Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, hail bigger than quarters and a few tornadoes are possible.

The bull’s-eye of severe thunderstorm risk will shift east on Monday and capture parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast.

Hazardous thunderstorm activity could get underway by Monday afternoon from Texas to Arkansas and expand in scope as storms track east through the evening hours.

Severe hazards are once again possible Monday.

Thunderstorms will rumble across the South on Tuesday, but the threat for widespread damaging storms appears to be limited.

A normal winter was hard to come by, according to an index from the Midwest Regional Climate Center which tracks the aggregate toll of cold and snow at hundreds of locations across the country.

Places with more cold and snow have “severe” or even “extreme” winters as it builds over time, whereas locations with less of both experience mild winters. Dozens of locations have experienced the mildest winter since 1950.

Winter warmth started off at a blistering pace. December was the warmest on record for the Lower 48, a full 7.3 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Aside from one brutal cold spell in January, it continued through the season, with February finishing as the third-warmest on record.

Unusual February heat wasn’t limited to the US. February was the Earth’s hottest on record, marking the ninth month in a row global records tumbled, according to Copernicus, the European Union’s climate monitoring service.

In the US, a classic El Niño pattern had a strong hand in amplifying temperatures, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast where winter felt more like spring.

Eight states experienced a record-warm winter: North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Temperatures were several degrees above normal in dozens of cities from the north-central US to the Northeast – another clear indicator of exceptional warmth.

Areas downwind of the Great Lakes had some of the greatest snowfall deficits due to a lack of lake-effect snow. Without these robust snow events to bulk up totals, Erie, Pennsylvania, missed out on just over five feet of typical winter snow.

The lack of snow and ice is having a serious impact on small businesses that rely on it to operate, prompting the governors of Michigan and Minnesota to encourage business owners to seek federal assistance through the Small Business Administration.

“From skiing and snowshoeing to winter festivals, snowy winters are part of our way of life in Minnesota,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz said in a news release. “The low precipitation we’ve experienced this winter has had a real economic impact on small businesses that rely on snow and winter tourism to grow and survive.”

Significant snowfall deficits and the unusual warmth are also worsening drought conditions in parts of the Midwest. Severe drought expanded over portions of Wisconsin and Michigan and extreme drought increased in Iowa, according to the latest US Drought Monitor.

The lack of cold air also shattered chances for prolonged, expansive ice coverage across the Great Lakes.

Ice coverage across all five lakes averaged just 5.6% from Jan 1 to March 7, the lowest level since 1973, said James Kessler, a physical scientist at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.

“That’s fairly remarkable to say,” Kessler told CNN.