After last winter, many us are approaching this winter with caution.

Today probably didn't help: snow on Halloween?

The National Weather Service's winter weather forecast is out. All we can say is make sure those snow blowers and shovels are ready if you live, work and/or play -- not to mention drive or travel -- between U.S. 131 and the Lake Michigan shore in greater Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

Last year, was a record-setting winter. Winter brought record snow and cold, record ice coverage on the Great Lakesice jams potholes and more.

Winter was even to blame for a bad mosquito season last spring and summer.

It was a winter to remember -- or maybe one to forget.

Greater Grand Rapids and West Michigan

Last winter, the polar vortex had us in its grip.

There were 116 inches of snowfall recorded for winter 2013-14 in Grand Rapids, according to the National Weather Service's Grand Rapids office. That was nearly 50 inches more than the previous winter -- which was more typical -- and the second most on record behind 132 inches in 1951-52.

Expect another above normal winter in terms of snowfall in locales west of U.S. 131, meteorologist Bill Marino said. Even though precipitation might be forecast below average, that's not necessarily the case in lake-effect locales like West Michigan.

"You can have well below normal precipitation and way above normal snowfall because of lake effect," he said.

And then there's The Old Farmer's Almanac, with its forecast for the Grand Rapids area's winter being this:

Winter will be colder than normal, with the coldest periods in late December, throughout January, and in early February. Precipitation will be ... near normal. Snowfall will be above normal in most of the region, with the snowiest periods in mid-December, early and mid-January and early February."

Michigan, Midwest and U.S.

The National Weather Service is calling for a drier-than-normal winter in Michigan, except for us in lake effect areas like West Michigan. (Image: NOAA National Weather Service).
The National Weather Service is calling for a drier-than-normal winter in Michigan, except for us in lake effect areas like West Michigan. (Image: NOAA National Weather Service).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center says this winter should be less snowy with near average temperatures overall in other parts of Michigan and across the Midwest and U.S.

Should be better than last winter, which is a relief, although less snowy and warmer than last winter isn't really saying much.

NOAA says we have a greater than 40 percent chance of having a drier than average winter. Winter temperatures are expected to be near normal. NOAA calls a repeat of last winter's extreme conditions "unlikely".

As for The Old Farmers' Almanac, its winter forecast for the Lower Lakes region, which includes western Michigan, prognosticates “winter will be colder than normal,” with the coldest stretch being late December through early February. Also, while precipitation will be near normal, "snowfall will be above normal ..., with the snowiest periods in mid-December, mid-January and early February.”

Meanwhile, about that polar vortex and a possible repeat for West Michigan?

Last year’s winter was exceptionally cold and snowy across most of the United States, east of the Rockies. A repeat of this extreme pattern is unlikely this year, although the Outlook does favor below-average temperatures in the south-central and southeastern states."

So, if you're headed to Florida, the Carolinas or toward the Gulf of Mexico this winter, well ... welcome to winter.

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