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A slightly warmer winter is coming, but 'snow storms and cold spells' still likely

Icicles melt from the eaves of a home in Cedar Rapids as the sun rises. (Gazette file photo)
Icicles melt from the eaves of a home in Cedar Rapids as the sun rises. (Gazette file photo)

Temperatures this winter are expected to be slightly warmer than normal, according to the National Weather Service.

But that doesn’t mean the region won’t weather bitter chills, and weather service meteorologist Alex Gibbs said Iowans should take the forecast with a grain of salt.

Maybe of the de-icing variety.

“Just because it’s above average doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods,” said Gibbs, stationed at the weather service’s Quad Cities outpost. “It’s winter.”

Even above average temperatures for Eastern Iowa would be near-freezing — from December to February, Cedar Rapids’ average high is 32 degrees. Iowa City only fares about one degree warmer.

Lows are typically around 15 degrees.

“We’re looking for temperatures to be above normal, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see snow storms and cold spells as well,” Gibbs said.

Snowfall this year is expected to be normal — about 21 inches in the Cedar Rapids area.

While the National Weather Service’s forecasts lean toward slightly warmer weather, the Farmers’ Almanac predicted “teeth-chattering” temperatures throughout the Midwest.

Relying on an 1818-developed mathematical and astronomical formula, the 2018-19 Farmers’ Almanac warned Iowa and surrounding states of “blustery and bitter winds, a sharp drop in temperature, and widespread snow showers,” with the coldest days coming in mid-February.

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Meteorologists typically mark the start of winter in December, though high temperatures this month already have been chilly.

All but one day in November have been colder than normal, according to KCRG meteorologists, with a couple days hitting highs as much as 20 degrees cooler than average.

In recent years, winter weather has varied season to season. Last winter was considered warmer than average by about 1 degree, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures in 2017 and 2016 also were higher than normal.

Winter 2015 was about average, while 2014’s was much colder — the ninth-coldest season on record, it froze pipes, closed schools and drove up heating bills.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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