It’s time to get out the snow shovels, and maybe the umbrellas, too.

Long-range forecasts call for western Kentucky to have slightly above normal temperatures this winter, but also above normal likelihood for not only snow but sleet, freezing rain, thunderstorms and tornadoes.

“Just be prepared is the best advice I can give you for this winter,” said Mike York, weather program leader and forecaster for the National Weather Service’s Paducah office.

York was one of several people who addressed a crowd of about 100 emergency managers, transportation, hospital and school officials, and media representatives during the National Weather Service’s Winter Weather Workshop on Tuesday in Grand Rivers.

York explained that a weak La Nina weather system, in which the temperature in the Atlantic Ocean near the equator is cooler than normal, typically leads to warmer temperatures in the Southern United States and cooler temperatures in the North, sandwiching western Kentucky in between.

“Of course you know what happens when you have a collision of warmer and cooler temperatures,” York said. “You have a lot of fireworks.”

In general, he said, that means more storms. Whether those storms are snow or warmer weather with thunder and lightning may depend upon other factors, in part.

One of those is what is called the North Atlantic oscillation. Rick Shanklin, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Paducah office, explained it as a weather pattern that either allows cold Canadian air to filter south to the United States or blocks its arrival. The oscillation so far has been negative, allowing the cold air through, but forecasters can’t determine if it’s likely to change until about two weeks beforehand.

Last year, the oscillation remained positive virtually all winter, leading to the mildest winter on record at the weather service office in Paducah. This year, it’s starting out negative.

“We had a record warm fall last year and we obviously don’t have that now, so we’re starting out on the wrong foot if you don’t like cold weather,” York said.

Shanklin said the negative oscillation, combined with La Nina, typically means western Kentucky gets what he calls a greater spectrum of precipitation, not just snow or just rain.

“We always have that risk but even a little more risk of sleet and ice this winter,” he said.

York said in addition to the increased risk for a mix of different kinds of winter weather, “short but intense outbreaks” of arctic air or snow are possible.

As part of attempts to simplify terminology, the National Weather Service is reducing the kinds of winter weather alerts it will send out beginning this winter.

A lot of people didn’t know what a weather advisory was, which was something more than a watch but less than a warning, York said. As a result, the weather service will no longer issue freezing rain advisories or blizzard advisories. Instead, the only advisory offered will be a winter weather advisory.

Similarly, a winter storm watch will be the only kind of watch related to wintry weather of any kind. The alerts will also focus first on when and where the weather is likely to take place, making it easier for people listening to weather radios to more quickly determine how they are likely to be affected. Additional information, such as whether blowing snow or freezing rain are the main concern, will come later in the alert.

“Just because there is a difference in type of headline does not mean the information is not going to be conveyed,” York said.

Transportation officials will also respond to winter weather a little differently.

Because 80 percent of crashes involving snow plows and salt trucks have taken place between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., “during those overnight hours you may not see quite as many plows out,” said Keith Todd, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Highways’ district 1 office in Reidland.

That could also lead to a delay in plowing “C,” routes, which are considered the routes with the lowest traffic and least priority to clear, he said.

Snow plow drivers could be out as soon as this week familiarizing themselves with their routes, Todd said.

Michael Williams, snow and ice program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Highways, said the goal is that the state will have trucks plowing each lane of an interstate once per hour during severe weather with “A” routes plowed every two hours, “B” routes every four hours and “C” routes every 16 hours.

How the state responds to winter weather depends in part on pavement conditions, when a storm is projected to arrive, the kind of weather expected, how intense a storm is likely to be and how long it is likely to last, he said.

“Here in Kentucky we have a lot of rain before snow,” he said. “Sometimes it might be a sleet/freezing rain mix.”

The state’s salt stores are at 98 percent capacity with 301,700 tons of salt at maintenance facilities and another 180,000 tons available in underground storage as needed. About 1 million gallons of brine is ready to spread on highways as well.

In an average year, such as that in the winter of 2015-16, he said the state used about 250,000 tons of salt, costing about $58.5 million.