Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let it O! Let it O! Let it O!

Chances are, this time of year means downtown Omaha looks something like a winter wonderland.

That's especially so this snowy Christmastide. And it's about to get even more that way as we brace for the whitest Christmas we've had in years.

The weather service has issued a winter storm watch for most of the state for Tuesday night through Christmas eve. In central Nebraska, six to 10 inches of snow are possible. In eastern Nebraska, the storm is likely to begin with freezing rain followed by several inches of snow, the weather service said.

Wednesday “will see a whole variety of precipitation -- snow, sleet and freezing rain. It looks like a pretty ugly day,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines.

Snow and hard winds will continue through Thursday, with some flurries and frigid wind chills on Christmas Day.

But it's a little too soon to know exactly what's coming.

That shouldn't come as a surprise, given how this year's weather has unfolded. After all, climate scientists are perplexed by autumn's odd weather.

North Platte received more snow in October than it usually sees in an entire year. Across much of Nebraska, October and December have brought near-record cold.

With December's cold came a snowstorm that blanketed much of the United States and brought the nation's midsection to a halt.

Climate scientists say a couple of factors are upending the weather lately. But they hold onto hope for higher-than-normal temperatures in January and February.

“This could turn out to be one of those years when December ends up colder than January and February — at least, I've got my fingers crossed,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Halpert said a North Atlantic weather phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation has been playing havoc with the end of autumn.

The jet stream, he said, has shifted farther south than it normally does at this time of year, allowing cold air from Canada and the Arctic to drift down.

“We're not sure why it's doing this,” he said, though “we have some suspicions.”

TONIGHT, the TV weatherman said freezing rain (translate: ice storm) Wednesday changing to snow the afternoon of Christmas Eve, with "several inches" of accumulation by Christmas morning. This could mean we'll be walking -- not driving -- to midnight Mass this year. Or not. It depends.

What it does mean is we'll be pretty much snowed in this Christmas.

See, in a season where we're all prone to rushing around, getting busy, getting frazzled and "Christmasing" ourselves into a state . . . well, God has His way of saying "Stop! Enough! Be still and be at peace."

And, frankly, that the Almighty can do that while dressing our landscape in the finest white garments -- and making everything so jaw-droppingly pretty, especially at Christmas -- ranks among the most fetching of the Midwest's charms.

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