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Forecast: Wetter winter expected in Tennessee, Kentucky this year

Forecast: Wetter winter expected in Tennessee, Kentucky this year
Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) — The weather outlook calls for winter to be wetter this year in Tennessee and Kentucky, although forecasters can’t say yet if it will come down as snow, ice, sleet or just a cold rain.
The National Ocean-ographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center expects above-normal precipitation now through the end of March across both states. The temperature outlook is slightly above normal in the western half of Tennessee, with usual readings elsewhere in the two states.
The prediction for more precipitation is too long-range for forecasters to pinpoint the type or amount to expect.
“What the outlook can’t tell us is how much,” said Bobby Boyd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville.
The possibility of a snowy winter doesn’t please Mike Jones, superintendent for Fentress County Schools. His first reaction to the outlook was, “Oh, no.”
His rural county sits atop the northern Cumberland Plateau, where snow is the likely outcome of winter moisture. Although last year was easy on the school calendar, with less than a week of instruction missed because of weather, Jones remembers the academic year of 2010-2011, when 20 days were missed because of slick roads.
“Most of the highways in this county are two-lane, and we have a lot of mountain roads,” Jones said.
The rural nature of Fentress County and its elevation usually translate into about two weeks of snow days per year.
“If a child in rural Appalachia goes through high school and misses two weeks a year for snow, they’ve missed a year of instruction,” Jones said.
Ismail Camur’s towing business sees an increase in service calls during snow and ice conditions, as motorists get stuck in the hilly terrain of eastern Kentucky.
“Of course when there’s snow and ice on the road, we stay busy,” said Camur, who owns Victory Towing in Hazard. He said the most common calls are from people who run off the road into ditches or get stuck on a hill.
Residents of both states got a break last winter, which was mild. For example, in Nashville, where average winter snowfall is 8.5 inches, only 0.4 inches fell. 
Boyd said there is no dominant weather factor this season. An El Nino trend in late summer broke down in the Pacific in early autumn. An El Nino winter is typically wetter than usual in West Tennessee and southern Middle Tennessee, but drier than normal in the rest of the state and all of Kentucky, according to NOAA.
Cold outbreaks will come from negative phases of Artic oscillation, and those aren’t predictable more than about a week out.
“Snowstorms are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance,” Boyd said.
“Oftentimes it is a race between the two, as the precipitation ends just as the colder air arrives,” he said.
Associated Press writer Dylan Lovan contributed to this report from Louisville, Ky.
Published in The Messenger 12.21.12