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Groundhog predicts early spring, meteorologist disagrees
Groundhog Club co-handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil during the annual celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Tuesday. - photo by AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow Tuesday, indicating an early start to spring for the United States. The decision marks only the 18th time Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog hasn't seen his shadow since the tradition began in 1887.

While Phil may have a personal connection with Mother Nature, AccuWeather is relying more on emerging weather patterns and the next few months look to be filled with more much-need rain in the West and more snowstorms in the East.

In the Western region of the U.S., thanks to an El Nino weather pattern, much-needed rain and snow are both expected to fall through April, according to AccuWeather Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. The affects the wet winter and spring will have on recharging water resources after the four-year drought, however, are uncertain. And in California, abundant precipitation could lead to additional flooding problems.

"Throughout the winter, the focus for precipitation has been on both northern and central California. While this will continue to be the case into spring, one or two systems are on the radar for Southern California in March," Pastelok said.

"We've gotten the snow in the Sierra. We've gotten the rain in the short term. It will continue through the end of the wet season, which is good news as well," he continued.

Other parts of the country will not have a silver-lining to the continued winter weather.

In the mid mid-Atlantic and Northeast, cold air and stormy weather will take the stage from late February into the start of March, opening the door for a potential late-winter snowstorm, according to Pastelok.

"There could be a last surge of winter before we see the transition into spring," he said. "For the Northeast, there's still an opportunity for some snow, although there's a higher chance that we'll see a cold snap rather than a big snowstorm."

A quick warm-up will follow, however, allowing milder air to arrive faster than it has in the past two years for both

Spring will kick off with periods of wet weather across the Southeast, increasing the risk for flooding throughout the region. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina will be at an especially high risk.

From late February through March, the threat for severe thunderstorms will ramp up in Florida. Elsewhere however, severe weather will get a slow start with below-normal tornado totals predicted for the month.

Severe weather is also expected to ramp up in April for Plains, Mississippi Valley and the Midwest.

As April progresses and storms track from the Southwest, it will lead to increased severe weather in the central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley and Midwest.

"Intense warmth ahead of these storms coming out of the West is going to promote severe weather. Those are the ingredients you need," Pastelok said.

"The thing that worries me the most is that it could turn into heavy rain producers that could lead to flooding. And we've seen lots of flooding already over this past winter season in the Mississippi Valley."