The winter weather machine was starting to rev up its engines again, with forecasts of lows around freezing or colder extending into most of the South, and the spot market responded with small to moderate increases at a large majority of points Tuesday. The return of industrial load from its greater-than-usual declines over a holiday weekend and Friday’s 7.2-cent uptick by March futures also played supportive roles.

Somewhat ironically, it was slides of about 10-20 cents by Transco’s Zone 5 (Mid-Atlantic) and two Zone 6 pools, along with a dip of a little less than a nickel by Iroquois Zone 2 and flat quotes at Texas Eastern M-3, that were left out of the overall firmness. Those market areas (especially the Mid-Atlantic) have borne the brunt of the worst blizzard conditions that have devastated travel, business and other aspects of life in the eastern U.S. over the last two weeks.

Most of the market realized gains ranging from a little less than a nickel to a little more than 20 cents; nearly all of the upticks were in double digits.

March natural gas futures proved to be a difficult read. After spending much of the morning in positive territory amid great strength by Nymex’s petroleum-based offerings, the gas contract later reversed course to wind up the day down 15.8 cents in what one broker indicated was a case of comfort levels with storage inventories outweighing forecasts of continued cold weather (see related story).

Other than an extended Overage Alert Day on Florida Gas Transmission (see Transportation Notes) and MRT’s System Protection Warning, substantive transportation constraints remained in short supply despite the renewal of major heating load in many areas. Kern River was even cautioning customers about high linepack levels and refraining from banking; prices into the pipe rose about a dime anyway.

Breezy northwest winds will cause extra chill in the air Wednesday for the Northeast, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. It expected dry conditions along most of the Interstate 95 corridor but said snow showers will continue from upstate New York southward to West Virginia.

It’s mid-February in the Midwest, so what can one expect other than lows in the teens and snow showers throughout much of the region? The relatively heavy (for the region) snows that disrupted many Southern lives over the weekend have passed on for the most part, but temperatures will be five to a little more than 15 degrees below average at midweek from eastern Texas eastward to the Carolinas and Florida, according to TWC.

The dependability of the overall western weather outlook continues to hold up. The Rockies and Western Canada will stay very cold, as they have been for several weeks now, while the rest of the region is still enjoying chilly to mild temperatures. The Kern River bulletin board said Los Angeles will cool off into the mid 70s over the next couple of days after experiencing a high around 80 Tuesday.

A Texas marketer said he thinks there “likely will be a little bit of a dropoff” in cash numbers Wednesday after Tuesday’s futures loss, although he expected some of the places with the worst cold to keep firming. Tuesdays following a holiday weekend usually are an up day for the cash market, he observed.

He saw little in transportation restrictions other than the “everyday constraints” on Tennessee from Zones 4 through 6.

Despite the latest forecasts for early March still looking pretty cold, the marketer said he looks for slow downward movement over the next few weeks in both cash and futures, with the screen eventually dipping under $5.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has little comfort to offer winter-weary residents of the eastern U.S. in its six- to 10-day forecast posted Tuesday afternoon for the Feb. 22-26 workweek. The agency looks for above-normal temperatures only in Maine and the northern end of New Hampshire, along with the northwestern corner of Washington state. Otherwise NWS predicted below-normal conditions continuing virtually everywhere else east of a line running generally southward from western Montana to the far western end of Texas.

Ron Denhardt of Strategic Energy & Economic Research said his final projection is for a 205 Bcf withdrawal in the storage report for the week ending Feb. 12.

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