U.S. Winter Forecast: Snow To Bury Rockies; Slow Onset In East

News Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer

(SnoWest ED-AccuWeather.com is my new favorite website ... for now.)

Though summerlike temperatures kicked off fall in some parts of the United States, winter-with its cold and snow-is quickly following. The season will get off to a slow start in the Northeast with only occasional shots of cold early on. The northern Plains and the Rockies, however, will be bitterly cold at times and buried in snow.

With the East as an exception, most ski resorts country-wide should not have a problem getting up-and-running this year. This season's precipitation may even bring drought relief to California, replenishing reservoirs and easing water shortages.

East to Remain Mild Until Latter Half of Season

Winter weather lovers will have to be patient this year, as the start of the season in the East certainly won't pack a punch in terms of cold or snowfall. Winter will begin mildly, with a long duration of above-normal temperatures. One snow system and some chilly air could come at times during November, however.

Temperatures will fall in the latter part of the season, likely the beginning of January, allowing snow to fall along the I-95 corridor.

Philadelphia, which received only 8 inches of snow last year, will likely get higher amounts, but other areas from New York City to Boston should not expect to beat last year's totals. Overall, however, winter sports enthusiasts have a shot at an average season.

"It's not going to be a complete [snow] drought season coming up, but I think they'll have to wait until probably late in the season to get their best chances of the higher snow amounts," AccuWeather.com Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

Early in the season, the storm track will not favor coastal areas, but areas farther north, including Burlington, VT, and areas north of Albany should have a strong chance at a white winter.

"The farther south you go, it is going to more likely be mid- to late season that you may have an opportunity to see some snow, which is typical," Pastelok said.

Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Gulf Coast to Rival Warmth Records

The winter season will begin with well above-normal temperatures for the Southeast, Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast areas.

December could yield daily record-breaking warmth for the Tennessee Valley, where monthly temperatures departures could average as much as 4-6 degrees above normal.

With the warmth will come a severe weather threat for the central and western Gulf Coast. A few heavy rain events could lead to flooding in December and February, ultimately resulting in above-normal precipitation for the area.

From Paducah, KY.; Memphis, TN; and Little Rock, AR; to Dallas could be impacted by some snow and ice events.

Northern Plains, Upper Midwest: Snowy With Blasts of Extreme Cold

Those living in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest should plan for plenty of days requiring snow boots and shovels, as several strong systems are expected to unleash above-normal snow totals.

Across the Ohio Valley, Midwest extending toward the central Plains, a wintery mix will accompany an active storm track.

Farther north, across parts of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest, snow will be favored over rain, resulting in higher snow totals in December into January.

Frequent arctic blasts will take aim at the Dakotas and Minnesota late in the season, leading to some extreme cold at times.

In late December and into January, the Midwest may be in an ideal position for a big storm. Conditions could align to bring Chicago a winter storm in time for the holidays.

Des Moines, Minneapolis, Omaha and just northwest of Kansas City can each expect above-normal snowfall this season.

Northwest, Rockies: Abundant Snow, Wild Temperature Contrasts

The highlight of the Northwest this year is frequent precipitation, in the form of rain and snow.

"A lot of it will be due to the change in water temperatures that is taking place over the northeastern Pacific; they're much warmer," Pastelok said.

This allows for an active jet stream farther south that will bring moisture in multiple-week periods throughout the winter season.

The area will also endure significant temperature contrasts. Coastal areas will average slightly above normal, while parts of Montana and Wyoming fall well below normal.

"February can be a wild month, temperature-wise. There is a chance for a strong, arctic surge of cold air, especially for the northern Rockies," Pastelok said.

Additionally, the Southwest could warm up and milder weather will spread north to western Oregon and Washington.

West: Reservoirs to Catch Up, Drought Relief on Horizon

From December through January, California will enter a period of heavy precipitation resulting in much-needed relief from the extreme drought.

For more than two years, parts of the state have endured moderate to extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

"I think this can definitely alleviate some drought issues. I think we're going to fill those reservoirs up a little bit," Pastelok said.

The season also brings hope to resorts across the state which have not received normal snowfall amounts in the past two seasons.

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