Iowans have enjoyed warmer-than-normal temperatures recently and for the past several months, yet like-it-or-not, winter’s on the way. Tuesday is Winter Weather Awareness Day and meteorologist Jeff Johnson at the National Weather Service says one thing people need to know is the difference between a Watch and a Warning.

“A Watch means there’s a 50-50 chance of it happening and those are usually issued two to three days in advance and that gives you a heads up that trouble might be coming,” Johnson says. “A Warning means there’s about an 80-percent chance of it occurring, and it means you’d better take action at that point. If you’re planning a trip, you might want to consider delaying it or at least double-checking the weather and making sure the roads are passable.”

Johnson says the winter of 2009-2010 is still fresh on the minds of many Iowans and the smart ones will be preparing for the worst. “It really got going in early December and never let up through much of March,” Johnson says. “That was a bad winter. In Des Moines, we came within one inch of setting the all-time snow record and there could’ve been places in the state that did. Hopefully, this year, we don’t repeat that.” Johnson says indications are we’ll have a “La Nina” weather pattern this winter, which usually means below-normal temperatures in the northern U.S. and above-normal temps in the south. He says that makes it hard to predict how Iowa’s weather will end up.

“I hate to say this, but it could go either way because we’re in that gradient between the above-normal temperature and below-normal,” Johnson says. “As far as precip goes, it’s about the same. We’re in a transition zone, so equal chances of being above and below. With this kind of forecast, prepare for the colder weather and what usually occurs here in Iowa.” There’s plenty of information on winter weather and the precautions Iowans should take at “”.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City