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Snow, cold missing across much of the US

TODAY's Al Roker reports that temperatures across the country are much warmer than usual for this time of year, with some areas experiencing highs that are 20 to 30 degrees above normal.

If you like your early Decembers mild and with just a touch of snow, this one's for you: Not only have temperatures been warm in many parts, just 7 percent of the continental U.S. is currently covered with snow — a much smaller footprint than the 32 percent this time last year.

"After last year's exceptionally low seasonal snowfall and record warmth for much of the nation, this year's lack of snowfall, even at this early date in the season, is a bit disconcerting," Tom Niziol, the winter weather expert at weather.com, told NBC News. "Some of that anxiety comes from the fact that much of the nation is already under significant drought conditions, so any lack of precipitation, frozen or unfrozen, contributes to that drought."  

Some Midwest cities known for snow haven't seen any so far this season. Moreover, due to a warm spring, they are closing in on their records for most days without snow. 

Chicago has gone 275 days without measurable snow through Tuesday, weather.com reported. The record, set in 1994, is 280 days. The city's average snow total by Dec. 4 is 2.2 inches. Milwaukee, Wis., and Des Moines, Iowa, are on similar tracks.

Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday tied its no-snow record of 285 days.

Data compiled by the National Weather Service since 2003 show that no other Dec. 5 was in single digits in terms of snow cover — and 2005 was up to 48 percent.

As far as temperatures go, more than 1,600 daily warm temperatures were tied or broken during the week of Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, weather.com noted

Wednesday's forecast included temperatures "anywhere from 10 to almost 30 degrees above normal" in some places, NBC News meteorologist Al Roker said on TODAY. Cities in that range include Billings, Mont.; Amarillo, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; Columbia, S.C.; and St. Louis.

On Tuesday, record highs for a Dec. 4 were set in various cities, including: Syracuse, N.Y. (70 degrees); Flint, Mich. (65); Georgetown, Del. (73); and Morgantown, W.Va. (69).

Cold air has been "trapped in Canada and Alaska," weather.com said. But, starting Friday, the Midwest and Plains should turn cooler.

By early next week temperatures will be below freezing and the system could produce "the season's first significant, plowable snow in many locations," weather.com stated.

Chicago, which reached 70 degrees on Monday, might even get snow, but don't expect it on the East Coast.

"Depending on how the storm develops, snow and wind could continue into Monday over the Great Lakes, including Chicago," weather.com noted. "By the time the frontal system gets into the East, rain looks likely to fall in most areas, including the I-95 urban corridor."

In Minnesota, locals looking forward to the first measurable snow this season include the owner of a store that sells snow blowers, NBC affiliate KARE11.com reported.

"Six inches would be great, just anything we can get that people have to get out in the driveway and clear the snowfall," said owner Ed Veits.

Weather.com's Niziol echoed that concern. 

"Even though we are still over two weeks from astronomical winter, many people from the north are looking for some sign of winter," he noted. Even with some Arctic air moving in this weekend "there is nothing that shows a sustained push of very cold air from Canada for an extended period of time. We will just have to wait and see."  

Watch KARE11.com's report on the lack of snow in Minnesota

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