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Winter May Be A Long One For Northeast, Forecaster Says

While the 2016-2017 winter to date has been largely the winter that wasn’t for much of the country, cold weather is expected to grab hold of the northern tier of the United States well into spring, according to AccuWeather forecasters.

Northeast population centers can expect rain and snow through mid-March, and that will keep a lid on temperatures, according to Paul Pastelok, AccuWeather lead long-range forecaster.

"As far as a significant warmup goes in the Northeast, I think you have to hold off until late April and May," Pastelok said.

And chilly air will also stretch westward into the Midwest.

"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," he said. "North and west [of Chicago] is going to be delayed because of the amount of snowpack. It will be running behind schedule, no doubt in my mind. I just don't know how far behind at this point."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that a La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean has faded, and the northern hemisphere is likely to see neutral conditions, or even an El Nino event, in coming months.

That could result in the slow retreat of a northern jet stream, which brings cold air to the upper levels of the atmosphere over North America, according to Pastelok.

"If it's slow to move out, which is typical of a weak La Nina season, you're going to get more explosive systems, more severe weather, and that's a good possibility in the southern Plains this year," Pastelok said.

More immediately, a blizzard was pounding the Northeast Thursday and the eastern half of the United States was expecting a cold blast of air to dominate next week, which could chip away at natural gas storage levels.

The Energy Information Administration on Thursday reported a 152 Bcf storage withdrawal. Last year 93 Bcf was withdrawn for the week and the five-year pace stands at a 138 Bcf decline. Inventories stand at 2,559 Bcf and are 325 Bcf less than last year and 45 Bcf greater than the five-year average.

This winter, similar to last, has proven to be much warmer than most people in the natural gas industry had expected, or hoped. Data and analytics company Genscape Inc. said last week that gas-weighted heating degree days from November to January (per NOAA) are on track to be about 320 below the 30-year average (in terms of gas demand, more than 500 Bcf/d below normal from November-January) and 280 below the 10-year average.

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