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Winter forecast: La Niña returns, southern drought persists

Last winter – with its droughts, tornado outbreaks, heavy snows, and floods – was a tough one in different ways for millions of people. Be prepared for more of the same this year.

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A pedestrian carries a shovel in Albany, N.Y. after a storm dumped more than a foot of wet, heavy snow on parts of eastern New York last year, closing hundreds of schools and knocking out power to more than 100,000 customers.

Mike Groll/AP

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Last winter, with its droughts, tornado outbreaks, heavy snows, and floods was a tough one in different ways for millions of people.

Be prepared for more of the same this winter and into early spring, say forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency's seasonal outlook for the coming winter calls for cooler-than-normal temperatures up and down the West Coast and across the northern tier from the Pacific Northwest through the Great Lakes Region. The southern tier is expected to see warmer-than-normal temperatures from the eastern half of Arizona though western Mississippi.

More challenging for the already parched southern tier is the precipitation outlook. From southern California to the southern Great Plains and into the Southeast US, the southern half of the country is expected to be drier than normal, which would reinforce an already devastating drought centered on Texas and into New Mexico, Oklahoma, and spilling into neighboring states.

Ninety-one percent of Texas, 87 percent of Oklahoma, and 63 percent of New Mexico are experiencing either extreme or exceptional drought conditions – the designations given the two most-severe rankings, according to David Brown, climate services director at the National Weather Service's southern regional headquarters in Ft. Worth, Texas.

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