Feb. 22 (UPI) -- As February enters its final week, AccuWeather forecasters are eyeing two storms -- one weakening, the other strengthening -- that have the potential to dump snow on areas from the central Plains and middle Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes region and the interior Northeast.
Parts of the Interstate 95 corridor, which have received well-below-average snowfall so far this season, will miss out on any snow that develops, AccuWeather meteorologists say.
The first storm will move in this weekend to deliver rain and high-elevation snow from Southern California to Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.
For some areas in the Southwest, this storm system will bring the first precipitation received in a month. As the storm moves east, it's forecast to peak over the southern Plains before weakening while traveling northeastward toward the Great Lakes Monday into Tuesday.
Since the first storm will enter an extensive swath of mild air in the eastern half of the nation, only a narrow band of snow is likely to develop. Conditions will be marginal for much in the way of snow in parts of the Central states.
"The storm still has the potential to produce a light to moderate snowfall from northeastern Kansas to the central part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and part of central Ontario during the first part of the coming week," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
Cities that could pick up anywhere from a coating to a few inches of snow from the first storm include Topeka, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; Davenport, Iowa; Rockford, Ill.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Grand Rapids, Mich.
The first storm will tend to push colder air a bit farther to the east, which can lead to wintry trouble for cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit and Cleveland. Across the border in Canada, cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal could experience some wintry conditions, too.
The second weather maker is forecast to move in late this weekend across the Northwestern United States and blast the region with gusty winds, heavy low-elevation rain and heavy snow at pass levels.
This storm will break the stretch of dry weather the Northwest has enjoyed recently.
This second storm will move southeastward across the Rockies with snow early next week. It may struggle and weaken as many storms do while crossing the Rockies.
However, after the storm system clears the Rockies, it's forecast to strengthen significantly and then rapidly once it makes its way east of the Mississippi River at midweek.
There is even a chance that it could strengthen into a bomb cyclone as it turns northeastward and travels from the Ohio Valley to the lower Great Lakes region Wednesday into Thursday. A bomb cyclone, or "bombogensis," occurs when the barometric pressure at the storm center falls 0.71 of an inch of mercury or greater in 24 hours.
"At this early stage, it appears the second storm will have a lot of things going for it, especially at the jet stream level of the atmosphere," according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dave Dombek.
"While the storm during the middle part of next week would bring rain to the coastal Northeast and even a large part of the central Appalachians, it is likely to be an effective wind producer," Dombek added.
AccuWeather chief broadcast meteorologist Bernie Rayno said the behavior of the jet stream will be critical in the storm's development and the track it takes. An upper-level high-pressure system off the East Coast, meaning the I-95 corridor, will dodge the snow threat from this weather system.
"Areas where it [snowfall] is very unlikely," Rayno said, "is where we've seen a snow drought all winter: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C."
Washington, D.C., has picked up 0.6 of an inch of snow this season. Typically, by this point the nation's capital has received 12.9 inches. Farther north, Philadelphia has recorded 0.3 of an inch of snow or 2 percent of normal so far this season and New York City has picked up 4.8 inches of snow so far this season, 26 percent of its normal snowfall.
The potential exists for a swath of significant snow to develop on the storm's colder, northwest flank from part of eastern Missouri to northern Maine and southern Quebec. How much snow falls and the exact swath where the heaviest snow ends up will depend on the track of the storm.
For portions of the eastern Ohio Valley and western slopes of the Appalachians, such as Pittsburgh, a rain-changing-to-snow scenario may occur.
A rapidly strengthening storm, whether a bomb cyclone or not, will generate strong winds.
Airline passengers should anticipate delays and turbulence related to wind from the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic to the Great Lakes and New England spanning Wednesday and Thursday. There is potential for flight disruptions in the mega airline hubs of Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and New York City from wind, in addition to or instead of heavy precipitation.
In the wake of the storm from Wednesday and Thursday of next week, an extensive push of cold air is forecast to plunge southward across the middle section of the nation.
"The cold air will advance southward first at midweek then spread eastward late in the week," Anderson said.
Cold air quickly spreading southward may limit the risk of severe weather over the South Central states. However, there may be an elevated risk of severe weather in the southeastern corner of the nation.
Once the cold air gets in, it may not be in such a hurry to leave this time.
"Not only may that cold air invade much of the central and eastern U.S., it could stick around longer than most outbreaks we have seen this winter," added Dombek.
At the very least, this will mean an uptick in heating demands and perhaps extensive and longer-lasting episodes of lake-effect snow than which have occurred this winter so far. Usually, during late February and early March, ice coverage is extensive over the Great Lakes and tends to limit lake-effect snow. The Great Lakes are largely free of ice this winter, leaving them open to add moisture to the atmosphere and potentially trigger heavy snow under the right (cold) conditions.
Any storms that manage to roll through that cold air during early March are more likely to bring snow, rather than rain. This includes the snow-drought areas of the mid-Atlantic coast and southern New England.