Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A major thaw is forecast for the recently winter-bombarded south-central United States, where millions of Americans have been struggling to stay warm this past week. Even though temperature swings won't be as dramatic in the Midwest and East, AccuWeather meteorologists say the extreme winter weather of late should ease up in intensity into the end of February.
There is plenty of good news for those struggling to get food and fuel and beginning the repair process over the South Central states following the once-in-a-lifetime surge of severe cold and back-to-back major winter storms during the middle of February.
The extreme winter weather and power outage crisis left millions without a source of heat that then led to scores of frozen, ruptured pipes and serious damage in Texas alone. The storms brought up to 2 feet of snow in parts of the region and ice an inch thick or more.
The siege of frigid air produced more than 4,500 daily record low temperatures. All-time record lows even fell in some locations, including Hastings, Neb., when the temperature plummeted to 30 below zero Fahrenheit; Fayetteville, Ark., with a recording of 20 below zero; Lawton, Okla., with a recording of 12 below zero; and Tyler, Texas, with a recording of 6 below zero this past week, according to National Weather Service data.
A rebound in temperatures began this weekend, but will throttle into high gear over the upcoming week to the point where temperatures surge to levels 30, 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit higher than during the depths of the frigid air from Feb. 13-16. A few places may end up experiencing temperatures 60-70 degrees higher by the middle to latter part of the coming week.
"Even though the greatest temperature departures above average during the coming week will be over the North Central states, with a trend slightly above average in the South Central states, the change will be dramatic for much of the Plains and Mississippi Valley, following such persistent severe cold from the middle days of the month," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.
By Wednesday, highs are forecast to range from near 40 in Chicago to the lower 70s in Houston, which will follow low temperatures from the middle of this past week ranging from 5 below zero in Chicago to 13 above zero in Houston. The temperature turnaround in Dallas from the morning of Feb. 16 to the afternoon of Feb. 24 is expected to be 62 degrees. And in Hastings, the positive temperature trend from last Tuesday to this Tuesday is forecast to be a whopping 73 degrees.
The accelerating thaw will help with natural melting of ice and snow on roads, but areas made wet by higher daytime temperatures can become icy at night.
"There will still be some nights into early week where temperatures dip below freezing in the South Central states," Samuhel cautioned, adding that more pipes could break where heat is still not restored.
Even the thaw can cause some pipes that split but remained frozen to this point to release water without notice. Property owners may want to thoroughly inspect all the pipes before turning the water back on.
"With a roughly west-to-east storm track restricted mainly to the northern half of the nation up until nearly the end of the month, storms are forecast to move swiftly along and not have a chance to grab Gulf of Mexico moisture," Samuhel said.
These storms can still bring rounds of snow and wintry mix to the North Central and Northeastern states through the upcoming week.
"One such storm is forecast to affect the North Central states on Sunday then the Northeast on Monday with some snow and slippery travel," AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.
However, farther south, most and perhaps all of the precipitation from storms swinging through into the end of the week would fall in the form of rain from Texas to Louisiana, Mississippi and perhaps over much of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.
The upcoming storms will be of much shorter duration when compared with the two- to four-day events and double-barreled systems that struck from coast to coast during the early and middle part of February.
Temperatures are forecast to trend upward in the Northeast and the interior Southeast as well this week.
"In much of the Eastern states, the temperature turnaround this week will not be nearly as dramatic as that of the Central states, but it will still be noticeable and should still feel good for people who mind the cold," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Courtney Travis said.
The milder air may allow property owners to get rid of any ice that has adhered to sidewalks and driveways in recent days due to persistent subfreezing temperatures.
High temperatures are forecast to rebound from the teens and 20s in the central Appalachians to end the weekend, to the 30s and lower 40s by midweek. Meanwhile, highs along the I-95 corridor of the Northeast will trend upward into the 40s in Boston and New York City to the 50s and even near 60 in Washington, D.C., by the middle of the week.
In comparison, Boston's normal high is in the low 40s during late February. New York City typically climbs into the mid-40s during the last week of February, and D.C. reaches right around 50 on average during this timeframe.
Right around the end of the month, the weather pattern may regress to somewhat harsher wintry conditions.
"There is some indication that Arctic air may build southeastward from western Canada and push across part of the central and eastern U.S. at the end of February to the first part of March, following a larger and more potent storm," Samuhel said.
"While some cold air may reach the South Central states and produce slightly below-average temperatures by early March, it should not be nearly as extreme as that what has occurred this week," Samuhel added.
The strengthening effect of the sun will also be of more assistance in negating the chill of Arctic air during March.