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Groundhog predicts early spring as new winter storm takes shape

A sprawling winter storm will bring ice and snow from the Rockies to the southern Plains to the Northeast by Friday as severe storms impact the South.
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Even though Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring for the second year in a row, and temperatures Monday were spring-like across the eastern half of the country, things will turn wintry by the end of the week as a new storm tracks across the United States.

About 14 million people are under winter alerts from the Rockies to the southern Plains, and 18 million people are under wind alerts across the Southwest, Four Corners and the Rockies, where winds could gust at 60 to 80 mph.

This storm is forecast to bring various weather effects to the lower 48 through Friday, with precipitation happening in two rounds. The first round occurs Monday and Tuesday with snow in the Rockies, and rain and storms for the East. The second round will be Wednesday through Friday, beginning with snow in the southern Plains and ending with a wintry mix for the Northeast on Thursday and Friday.

On Monday, moderate to heavy snow will fall across portions of the northern Rockies, and this snow will move into the central Rockies later in the day. Heavy snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour could hit the Denver metro right at the start of the evening rush hour. Up to a foot of snow is possible in the high elevations. Showers and storms, not severe, are possible across the southern Plains.

On Tuesday, snow continues across the Rockies, while an icy mix extends from the central Plains and the Midwest into New England. Severe thunderstorms capable of damaging winds, hail and isolated tornadoes are possible across parts of Louisiana and Arkansas. Shreveport is the largest city at risk.

On Wednesday, moderate to heavy snow, along with an icy mix, will impact the southern Plains, including Oklahoma City. The storm could bring 2-6 inches of snow from southwest Texas to Missouri. At the same time, severe thunderstorms capable of damaging winds, hail and isolated tornadoes will be possible across the Gulf Coast including New Orleans, Mobile and Panama City.

On Thursday, the storm reaches the East Coast. The Northeast may start receiving a wintry mix in the morning before transitioning to a cold rain in the afternoon. Northern New England, however, will see mostly snow. Severe storms will be possible for a third day in a row across portions of northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Damaging winds will again be the most likely threat but isolated tornadoes are also possible. Cities at risk will be Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Charleston, Charlotte and Raleigh. Rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches are possible from the Gulf Coast up through the Appalachians by Friday.

Pack your patience if you're traveling this week, as this long-duration storm will cause delays in the air and on the roads through Friday.