Temperatures in the 50s -- nearly 20 degrees above average -- set the stage for a dramatic change in the weather this week.

Blowing snow and ice-covered roads could cause significant problems for drivers on Thursday, when a winter storm is expected to bear down on much of Nebraska.

"I'm not using the 'B' word just yet, but at least intermittent whiteout conditions seem possible in some locations, especially the wide-open rural areas where snowfall is highest," said Barbara Mayes-Boustead, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Valley, in an online briefing posted Tuesday morning.

The winter weather is expected to arrive late Wednesday, with rain switching to snow overnight and continuing into Thursday.

Plummeting temperatures will also freeze pooling rain and melted snow — starting between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Thursday around Lincoln — a potential danger to motorists and to wet animals left outside.

Snowfall predictions for the Lincoln area still vary widely, with one model showing nearly 10 inches of snow and others essentially zero. The National Weather Service is predicting 3 to 4 inches inches in Lincoln, with areas of northeast Nebraska seeing 5 to 6 inches.

Wind gusts could exceed 35 to 40 mph, according to the Weather Service.

The Weather Service is likely to upgrade the winter storm watch posted for much of central and eastern Nebraska, aside from far-Southeast Nebraska.

"Adding insult to injury (or potential injury to insult), the combination of strong winds and cold air intrusion will lead to wind chills of (minus 10 to minus 20) during the day on Thursday along and north of I-80," Mayes-Boustead said.

The Nebraska State Patrol encouraged drivers to keep a winter weather survival kit in their vehicles, including a first aid kit, phone charger, ice scraper, shovel, small bag of sand, flashlight with extra batteries, blankets or sleeping bags, extra clothing and winter accessories, jumper cables, tow rope, tool kit, matches, candles, red flag or bandana, high energy or dehydrated foods, and bottled water.

“The storm (forecast) for this week could make for dangerous driving conditions across a large portion of the state,” warned Col. John Bolduc, patrol superintendent, in a news release. “Drivers should be prepared by staying up-to-date on the forecast, and plan ahead if you need to travel.”

Once the snow moves out, cold temperatures will hang around for the weekend. Saturday's high in Lincoln could hold in the single digits with overnight lows at or near zero.

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