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National

Tracking The Storm System That Wreaked Havoc Across The Nation

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A massive and deadly weather system continues to make its way east across the U.S. A winter storm in Chicago yesterday caused more than 1,700 flights to be canceled. Over the weekend, there was flooding in the Midwest, tornadoes in Texas and blizzards in New Mexico. And on the East Coast all the while, there was record-breaking heat. To find out what's going on, we turn now to Washington Post meteorologist Matt Rogers. Good morning.

MATT ROGERS: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Well, give us first of all the news, an overview of this massive storm system, where it is. What are you seeing?

ROGERS: Yeah, it's turning his way up through the Midwest and into the Northeast now. So it has definitely shifted gear. And now we're seeing a more typical wintertime situation, with winter storm warnings and advisories into the upper Midwest, into New England and the Northeast. We haven't really had much frozen precipitation in the Northeast. It's been a very bad start to their ski season up there. But we are expecting some bigger snows the upper parts of New England and then some mixed precipitation into New York, north of New York City into the Boston area here in the next number of hours. We do still have some flood watches out, though, going into the southeast. But we do not expect the severe weather that we saw earlier this week for Texas - out in the Texas area. Instead, it should be mostly just really heavy rains and flash flooding concerns into the southeast today.

MONTAGNE: OK, but, you know, that's something that everybody seems to be talking about this. When you put it all together, not so much that none of these things have ever happened, but that they're all seeming to happen at the same time - I mean, weird weather...

ROGERS: Yes.

MONTAGNE: As a lot of people look at it. I mean, is there one single source for all of this?

ROGERS: Yeah, it's the super El Nino that we have right now. I had the - there was one meteorologist that called it the Godzilla El Nino early this year. It's a really powerful event. We've only had it happen two other times since 1950. And the most - the previous one to this one was in 1997, '98. We had a lot of severe weather and flooding. And just a lot...

MONTAGNE: Out here in California.

ROGERS: Exactly, California - and that's a big concern of mine. I think if you remember in '97, '98, the El Nino evolved to a point where California had a lot of mudslides later in January and February. So I'm definitely concerned that California might become the crosshairs of this strong system by the back half of this winter ahead here.

MONTAGNE: Right. There was a huge - disaster conditions back then and possibly again. But you know, I'm wondering, can we expected this strange weather to continue?

ROGERS: I think there's going to be a lot of storminess and unsettled weather through this winter. What happens when you have these strong, warm waters in the tropical Pacific, it just gives a lot of extra fuel to the Pacific jet stream. So that's why we're seeing so many heavy snows in the Western U.S. right now and as we saw extending into West Texas as well, and then all this warmth into the eastern U.S. too. But then all that moisture-laden air offers a lot of flooding problems. Texas, southeast Florida had flooding problems last time too with the El Nino. So we are concerned a lot of areas will see some pretty turbulent weather over the next few months.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, thank you very much for this update.

ROGERS: Have a good one.

MONTAGNE: That's Washington Post meteorologist Matt Rogers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.