2018 US spring forecast: Cold, snow to linger in Northeast; Severe storms to kick off early in South

As one of America's famous groundhogs declared last week: a slow transition to spring is in store for most of the United States this year.

Much of the northern tier of the country will endure rounds of cold and snow into March and April before springlike air creeps in.

Meanwhile, the southern half of the country will heat up with California and parts of the Southeast heading toward drought conditions.

2018 spring highlights

Chill to hang on in Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest states

A slow transition to mild weather is in store for the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest this year.

Mixed rain and snow events for the Northeast and mid-Atlantic will take place into April as chilly air remains entrenched across the regions.

In the Midwest, cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee could receive snow as late as the end of April.

"If it does warm up, it won't last for a long duration. I think [warmth] comes in spurts throughout March, April and May," AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecast Paul Pastelok said.

While warm spells here and there may make you want to get started on your garden, Pastelok warns it's best to hold off.

"Be careful about putting things in the ground too fast because April could bring some surprises," he said.

While the chilly weather may be a disappointment to some, it will make spring severe weather a "no-show" this year, according to Pastelok.

RELATED:  Early 2018 winter weather across the US

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Early 2018 winter weather across the US
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Early 2018 winter weather across the US
CHICAGO, USA - JANUARY 20: A view of the frozen trees and ornamentals at Whihala Beach Park with the impact of surges and extremely cold weather in Chicago, Illionis, United States on January 20, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ILLIONIS, USA - JANUARY 12: Huge waves crash onto the sidewalk of the Lake Michigan as strong winds drive huge waves reaching about 6 meters high along the Chicago shoreline after the heavy snowfall and strong winds hit Indiana, in Chicago, United States on January 12, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 9: The U.S. Capitol dome is seen surrounded by fog Tuesday morning, Jan. 9, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 23: Storm clouds pass over the dome of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
NEW YORK, USA - JANUARY 09: Crowd of people skate on the ice rink during cold weather following snow days at the Central Park in New York City, United States on January 09, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - JANUARY 09: City staff members shovel snow during cold weather following snow days at the Central Park in New York City, United States on January 09, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 08: A visitor from Vietnam makes his way across the frozen Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on January 8, 2018. A member of the National Park Service subsequently told people to leave the ice and said that 12 people had recently fallen through. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
CHICAGO, USA - JANUARY 6: A view of the coast of Michigan lake frozen due to the extremely cold weather reaching minus 20 in the nights hits Chicago, Illionis, United States on January 6, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, USA - JANUARY 6: A view of the coast of Michigan lake frozen due to the extremely cold weather reaching minus 20 in the nights hits Chicago, Illionis, United States on January 6, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, USA - JANUARY 6: A view of ice floating over the frozen Chicago river as extremely cold weather reaching minus 20 in the nights hits Chicago, Illionis, United States on January 6, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: A man walks around Central Park during freezing temperatures on January 06, 2018 in New York City. The extreme conditions suffered across the United States are a result of the 'bomb cyclone' brought along by Storm Grayson. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
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Severe weather to kick off early in Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Gulf Coast

While severe weather may dodge areas farther north, it will waste no time heating up in the Southeast, Gulf Coast and Tennessee Valley.

Forecasters are calling for two or three big severe events as early as March.

Building warmth and a lack of precipitation in Florida during April may lead to drought conditions later in the season. However, the dry pattern could be turned on its head come May, when an early tropical feature threatens to impact the region.

This could cause the Sunshine State to rapidly transition from dry to flooded.

"Over the last three years, we have seen early tropical development in the Atlantic basin and I do feel there's going to be something popping up," Pastelok said.

"The area to watch is the eastern Gulf and the southwest Atlantic. I think that area is a little more susceptible this year," he said.

Severe weather will make a comeback for these regions later in the season, stretching from St. Louis, Missouri, down to Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee, and Louisville, Mississippi.

Temperatures to ride roller coaster in central and northern Plains

Temperatures will ride a roller coaster in the central and northern Plains, with short-lived warmups arriving at times.

"In April, we could see a pretty good bubble burst in the central Plains states where temperatures are going to take off for a while," Pastelok said. However, they're likely to reverse for a time in May.

Melting snow could cause flooding at times, especially along the Mississippi River.

Warmth to dominate southern Plains, Southwest and California

While the northern and central Plains contend with surges of cold air, a mid-spring warmup will grace the southern Plains.

Severe storms will threaten to ignite from time to time in places like Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Houston and Austin, Texas.

In the Southwest, residents may need to crank up the air conditioning early on, as the region basks in early summerlike heat.

The mercury could soar into the 90s F quite quickly, Pastelok said.

Along with the heat, however, will come dryness. This may translate to worsening drought conditions across Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, along with an increased risk for wildfires.

Wet and cool weather to prevail in Northwest, Rockies

The Northwest and Rockies will have a slow start to spring, with March temperatures feeling more like February on most days.

The wet and cool pattern will persist for the Northwest throughout April. In the mountains, snow could hang on as late as May.

"With this late snowpack and the warmup that takes place late spring and early summer, we could have some flooding in [the region's] rivers," Pastelok said.

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