LOS ANGELES – The first day of spring? Some people in Maine were shoveling 6 inches of new snow.
For many Americans, it feels like winter is hanging on like a bad cold.
And now government forecasters are predicting a cooler-than-usual spring across the northern U.S. Even just next week, frigid Arctic air is expected to blanket parts of the East.
“This is one of those winters — the gift that keeps on giving,” said Jon Gottschalck of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The stubborn cold is delaying flooding into April in much of the Upper Midwest and into New England.
While major flooding is unlikely in the next few weeks, forecasters said the greatest threat is in the southern Great Lakes because of the dense snowpack and thick ice on streams and rivers.
After a miserable winter, residents in parts of Maine dug out again on the first day of spring. The snowfall knocked out power to some.
Waiting to ditch the coats
“I’m just looking forward to not bundling up,” said Rich Maggi in the downtown Portland area where the snow had melted by midday. “I think this was hard on even the most winter-hardened people.”
Prolonged wintry weather forced a Michigan university to delay a yearly rite of spring — the burning of a fake snowman — after the campus was blanketed with 5 inches of snow overnight.
Officials at Lake Superior State University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the Canadian border said the snow and high winds raised safety concerns, and the ceremony was moved to Friday.
The snowman stuffed with shredded paper usually is dubbed Frosty. But this one was named Polar Vortex after the frigid air mass that punished the East Coast and Midwest this winter.
Since the snowman is usually lit with a propane torch, “you’ve got sparks flying, and we don’t need anybody to get a hole burned in a coat or worse,” said university spokesman Tom Pink.
In the West, parched conditions that have gripped California and the Southwest will continue with little relief, the federal government reported in its annual spring outlook.
If the drought persists, it likely will lead to a busy wildfire season.
California is in its third consecutive dry year, forcing some rural communities to ration water and farmers to sell their cattle.
Little drought relief
“Looking forward, we see little improvement unfortunately in some of the most impacted drought areas,” said Gottschalck, acting operations chief at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Below-average rainfall and snowfall coupled with the upcoming dry season could cause Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas to develop drought conditions, he said.
While the northern U.S. could see below-normal temperatures, forecasters said it is likely to be warmer than usual along the West Coast, across the southern portion of the country and in Alaska.
NOAA’s Mike Halpert said the weather-weary nation is ready for a change.
“After a memorable winter I suspect most of us are ready for spring,” he said.