A brutal winter rerun for the economy?

Remember last winter? It's hard to forget, especially if you were one of the millions whose lives and businesses were disrupted by the so-called polar vortex. And given the images we've been seeing recently of brutal blizzard conditions in Western New York State and elsewhere, concerns are rising this winter could bring more of the same.

Last year's season not only brought bone-chilling cold across large swaths of the U.S. but it also had a remarkable financial impact: It actually reversed the ongoing economic recovery during the first quarter of 2014.

In March of 2014, the Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" report, a commentary on current economic conditions around the country, noted how the extreme winter weather iced output by disrupting transportation, supply chains, construction and consumer activity, while raising energy prices and food costs.

So, should we be expecting more of the same this winter? Not necessarily, said Paul Pastelok, senior meteorologist at Accuweather and the head of the company's long-range forecasting. He expects the nation's weather to settle into a more normal winter pattern for the Eastern U.S. in early December, with some disruptions in the West.

Some much-needed precipitation might be on tap for Central and Southern California, enough to bring temporary relief from that region's historic drought.

But overall, don't expect an easy winter, Pastelok told CBS Moneywatch. He said the early storms in New York might indeed be a preview of what parts of the nation could see later this winter, "where we can have some disruptive snowstorms that come up the Eastern Seaboard, even ice into the Deep South -- and that can cause some major problems as far as shipping and traveling."

The difference in this winter's weather, he said, is that it shouldn't be as relentless as last winter. Pastelok expects the stormy periods to be followed by breaks in the weather. And those breaks might even help sales during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

"If you take the big East Coast cities, and you have two weeks of pretty good weather in early December, this is going to boost, I think, sales at the stores," he said, "because people are going to have limited issues with the weather. ... But after Christmas that could be a problem. January could be rough."

Economic analysts are watching the weather, but aren't necessarily concerned by it.

In a recently released report, Rajeev Dhawan, director of the economic forecasting center at Georgia State University, said what's partly helping the current economic recovery is the sharp drop in oil and gas prices.

But in terms of weather, Dhawan told CBS MoneyWatch that it's still too early to tell if this winter will have a noticeable economic reverberation. Bad weather can cause losses in the short term for restaurants and the service industry because those businesses can't recover as quickly as other sectors from days lost to bad weather.

But if we see any long winter storms, Dhawan noted, then the weather becomes a financial issue. As Accuweather's Pastelok pointed out, one big snowstorm can be a short-term economic setback. "But if you get hit a second or third time, that ... really hurts," he said. "We saw that in the Northeast last year, especially around Philadelphia, which got hammered several times with big snowstorms."