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Rain turns to snow as December arrives

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By Patrick Shuster
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

Despite the temperature spike last week of 69 degrees and several days where the mercury rose above 60 during the month of November, the region is facing its first chance of measurable snow today and tonight.

Steady rains falling since early Tuesday morning will give way to snow showers throughout the day and into this evening across most of Western Pennsylvania, according to State College-based meteorologist Erik Pindrock.

"A strong cold front began pushing into the area Tuesday, causing heavy rains all along the East Coast," he said. "Once the front moves through and the temperatures drop, the rains will change to snow."

Pindrock said much of the area will see a light coating of snow - less than an inch - while areas in the mountains could see two to three inches of snow before the system moves out of the area on Friday.

According to rain gauges at the locks and dams on the Allegheny River, Kittanningalready had seen a quarter of an inch of rain by 7 a.m. Tuesday and river levels are expected to rise over the next day, causing forecasters to issue flood watches across the area.

The Allegheny River at Lock 7 in Kittanning is expected to crest around 17 feet on Thursday, about four feet below the flood stage of 21 feet.

In Pittsburgh, nearly two inches of rain had fallen by 9 p.m. and another inch of rain was being forecasted before the temperatures drop. At Point State Park in Pittsburgh, the Ohio River is expected to crest during the day Thursday around 26 feet, about 12 inches over flood stage. Minor flooding is expected there.

Even after this storm pushes through the area, Pindrock said there is a higher chance of snow through the remainder of the year because of a La Nina weather pattern.

"During La Nina, temperatures during the first part of winter are usually colder than normal, giving way to a better chance of snowfall during December," he said. "The chances are above average for more precipitation in the first half of winter than in January and February."

Pindrock said that the forecast for the winter, which does not include storms like the ones this past February, calls for a wet winter all the way through to spring, with the precipitation coming in the form of rain, snow and ice mixtures in the latter part of winter.

"We won't see the kind of snowfall we had last winter, but we should have a mixed bag throughout the season," he said. "The way things are shaping up, there is a good chance many of us in Western Pennsylvania could see a white Christmas."

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