Winter may creep into eastern Nebraska at the end of this week as areas to the west and north prepare for a possible snowstorm.

A storm system packing gusty winds and plummeting temperatures will drop snow — 6 inches or more in some areas — from Montana into Colorado and across the Dakotas later this week, forecasters said.

In Nebraska, the National Weather Service is forecasting the coldest air of the season Thursday and Friday nights, with the possibility of snow for the Panhandle and northern areas of the state.

The weather service is predicting a high of only 44 degrees in Lincoln on Friday, with a low of 31 Saturday morning.

If that occurs, it would be the first freeze of the season, about a week later than the average of Oct. 5.

The Lincoln area is not likely to see snow, but other areas won't be so lucky.

By Monday afternoon, Sioux County in far northwestern Nebraska was included in a winter storm watch, and in eastern Nebraska, the weather service says snow is possible later this week in Norfolk, the Sioux City area and even as far south as Columbus. Parts of the Omaha area could see a few flurries.

There is not expected to be much, if any, accumulation, in eastern Nebraska.

Cooler temperatures will hang around through the weekend, with highs in the 50s expected Saturday and Sunday.

After one of the warmest Septembers ever, October has been cooler than normal, with Monday only the second day so far that the high temperature reached the 70s.

But what does the rest of fall and winter have in store?

The weather service predicts an equal chance of warmer- or colder-than-normal temperatures this month, but forecasts above-average temperatures for the rest of the year for pretty much the entire U.S.

Farther out, the weather service predicts an equal chance of temperatures being above or below average for December, January and February in Nebraska. Other sources, however, have a different view.

Paul Pastelok, an AccuWeather meteorologist specializing in long-term forecasts, says the cold temperatures that made last winter miserable for so much of the Plains and Midwest are likely to return, but later in the season.

Pastelok said that the polar vortex, which is an area of low pressure and cold air that surrounds the Earth's two polar regions, is strong. That means the air mass around the North Pole is likely to stay there for the immediate future and not stray south.

That's what happened last year, which led to prolonged periods of cold across much of the region.

Pastelok predicts that the northern and central Plains will see warmer-than-normal weather in December, but conditions could allow the polar vortex to again move south later in the winter.

As for snowfall, he predicts average to above-average snowfall for our area of the country.

One other source of long-range forecasting, The Farmer's Almanac, does not have good news for those who like mild winters.

A map on the publication's website predicts eastern Nebraska will see a winter that is "snowy, icy, icky."

In a commentary accompanying the map, Almanac editor Janice Stillman said that for parts of the Midwest, “This could feel like the never-ending winter."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


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